Ukraine says its missile strike on the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea fleet in Crimea successfully targeted a meeting of senior naval officials, with “top” commanders among “dozens of dead and wounded”.
Kyiv launched the missile attack on the fleet based in the port city of Sevastopol in occupied Crimea on Friday morning.
Ukrainian officials said the attack, targeting what is believed to be the best of Russia’s navy, was timed to coincide with the naval commanders’ meeting.
On Saturday morning, it followed this up with another missile attack on Sevastopol, according to a local Russian-installed official.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the attack resulted in any deaths or injuries but in a statement on Saturday, the Ukrainian military said the Friday attack had left “dozens of dead and wounded occupiers, including the top management of the fleet”.
Ukraine’s intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, told Voice of America on Saturday that at least nine people were killed and 16 injured as a result of Kyiv’s attack on the Black Sea Fleet on Friday.
He claimed that Alexander Romanchuk, a Russian general commanding forces along the key southeastern front line, was “in a very serious condition” following the attack.
The Russian defence ministry initially said that Friday’s strike killed one service member at the Black Sea Fleet headquarters, but later issued a statement that he was missing.
The Ukrainian military said the air force conducted 12 strikes on the Black Sea Fleet headquarters, targeting areas where personnel, military equipment and weapons were concentrated. It said two anti-aircraft missile systems and four Russian artillery units were hit.
Crimea has served as the key hub supporting Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Sevastopol, the main base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet since the 19th century, has had a particular importance for navy operations since the start of the invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine has increasingly targeted naval facilities in Crimea in recent weeks while the brunt of its summer counteroffensive makes slow gains in the east and south of Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War said.
Military experts say it is essential for Ukraine to keep up its attacks on targets in Crimea to degrade Russian morale and weaken its military.
Additional reporting by agencies