February 3, 2023

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Drone attack on Crimea’s Sevastopol, says Kremlin-backed official

Local authorities in Crimea said Ukraine attacked the port city of Sevastopol with a drone strike on Tuesday.

It was unclear whether damage was done to the city or to the Moscow Black Sea Fleet, which is headquartered there.

“There is an attack with drones,” said the Russian-installed governor of the Sevastopol region, Mikhail Razvozhaev, in a post on the messaging app Telegram. “Our air defense forces are working.” He said two drones were shot down and no civilian infrastructure was damaged.

Mr Razvozhaev said the drones appeared to be on course to attack a power plant in the Balaklava district, east of the city. He said the Russian Navy repelled a second group of three drones at sea. None of his statements could be independently verified.

It was the latest in a string of significant attempts to attack Crimea, which Russia illegally seized in 2014 and is using as a base of operations for its invasion of Ukraine. Russia blames Ukraine for the strikes, but Ukrainian officials maintain a policy of official ambiguity about attacks far from the battlefield.

After Russian officials accused Ukrainian forces of a drone attack on the Black Sea Fleet in October, the Kremlin temporarily suspended its involvement in a grain deal that provides a secure Black Sea corridor for grain shipments. Meanwhile, Russia has rejoined the agreement brokered by Turkey and the United Nations.

Although the October strike was far from the grain ships’ route, Russian officials said they rejoined the deal after receiving assurances from Ukraine that it would not use the grain corridor to attack Russian ships.

In the early months of the war, two Ukrainian-made Neptun cruise missiles slammed into the hull of the Moskva, the pride of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. The April strike triggered a series of explosions that eventually caused the cruiser to sink, killing an unknown number of sailors.

A senior Ukrainian official acknowledged that the country’s armed forces carried out a successful attack on the Saki airbase on Crimea’s west coast in August. Satellite photos taken there after a series of explosions appeared to show at least eight fighter jets destroyed.

Recently, in October, a truck bomb apparently used by Ukrainian saboteurs severely damaged the main bridge connecting Russia to Crimea.