A Ukrainian drone struck the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea over the weekend, the latest assault on an area of Moscow once considered an impregnable fortress.
Plumes of smoke were seen rising from the Sevastopol military base on Saturday morning, and townspeople were told to stay home immediately after the strike, the latest in a series of high-profile attacks on civilians. sensitive targets there and inside Russia.
Sevastopol Governor Mikhail Razvozhaev said there were no casualties and initially claimed the drone slammed into the roof of the air base after troops stationed there failed to able to knock it down. He later said soldiers were able to target the drone and it fell to the roof of the airbase after being hit. “Clarification: The drone was hit…right above fleet headquarters. It fell on the roof and caught fire. The attack failed. Well done boys,” he wrote.
Previous attacks in Crimea, including one earlier this month against the Saky Air Base which sent fireballs into the sky and destroyed nine or more warplanes, prompted many residents to flee the peninsula.
Concerned residents responded to Razvozhaev by asking how a drone had slipped through air defenses that at the start of the war were considered among the most sophisticated in the world. “Was our air defense system on a lunch break? one asked. “When are you finally going to shut down the city?” another asked, suggesting the attacks were the work of pro-Ukrainian supporters on the peninsula. “We fought harder against the coronavirus! There were checkpoints everywhere back then, now everyone gets in!!!!”
Another wondered if more attacks were to come. Wednesday, August 24 is Ukraine’s Independence Day and will also mark six months since the Russian invasion.
Many people in the country fear that Moscow is planning some kind of major attack that day, but the people of Crimea are also apparently concerned that Ukraine wants to mark its successful resistance.
“They have Independence Day on the 24th, maybe they are up to something? And the [drone] is just to divert attention from the essential.
The attacks came a day after the United States announced a $775 million weapons package for Ukraine, including drones, armored vehicles and artillery.
Government officials have repeatedly said that while Western weapons have helped the country save Kyiv and hold Russia back in other areas, they still lack the weapons needed to decisively defeat Russia.
Promised supplies are also slowly arriving. Last week, a senior source estimated that only 10% of the weapons promised by the West had reached Ukraine. And on Saturday, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak warned that Moscow was trying to create a “reputational crisis” for Ukraine that would slow the flow of Western weapons.
Ukrainian troops are pounded by guns in the south and east, where Russian forces are still advancing slowly through a wasteland of bombed-out ruined towns before being captured.
On Saturday, they intensified fighting to capture Bakhmut, one of the last major towns in the Donetsk region still held by Ukrainian forces, and which would allow Russia to advance on two other strategic targets, Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.
Last month, Russia took control of the entire Luhansk region, which together with Donetsk is the industrial heart of Donbass. Russian-backed separatists have declared two independent republics there.
After Russia’s failure to seize Kyiv and setbacks in parts of the south, including around the city of Kherson, capturing territory here has become a key military objective for Moscow.
Shelling in the Mykolaiv region also seriously injured four children and five adults, and a girl lost an eye, Governor Vitaliy Kim said. Shells landed in the city of Voznesensk, just 30 km from the country’s second largest nuclear power plant.
Russia’s occupation of the nearby factory in Zaporizhzhia, the largest in Europeand the suspicion that the Russian authorities might try to disconnect it from the Ukrainian network, which would increase the risk of a nuclear accident.
Additional reporting: Artem Mazhulin