Ukraine’s missile attack on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters on Friday was the most dramatic example of Kiev’s reliance on Russian facilities in Crimea.
“The enemy launched a missile attack on the naval headquarters,” Mikhail Rasvozhayev, appointed as the Russian governor of Sevastopol, said in a telegram.
Over the past month, Ukraine has stepped up attacks on Russian military bases and other installations in Crimea, including air defenses.
Sevastopol, home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters, is one of the largest cities on the Crimean peninsula and was illegally annexed by Moscow’s forces in 2014.
The Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD) said one Russian soldier was missing after the missile attack. The ministry had earlier released a statement saying a soldier had been killed in the attack. In an updated statement, they clarified that the soldier was missing and not killed.
“This afternoon the Kiev regime launched a missile attack on the city of Sevastopol,” the MOD tweeted.
“While repelling the missile attack, five missiles were shot down by air defense systems. As a result of the attack, the historic headquarters building of the Black Sea Fleet was damaged. According to available information, one soldier has been killed,” the MOD said.
Debris was “scattered hundreds of meters” following the missile strike, Russian state media TASS reported. TASS added that numerous ambulances were on their way to the scene of the attack.
Rasvozayev also said that a piece of shrapnel fell near the Lunacharsky Theater.
The Russian-appointed governor said operational services had gone to the scene of the attack and information on casualties was being clarified.
In an update late Friday, Razvozhayev said there was no “missile and aircraft risk” following the incident.
Razvozhayev earlier warned that another attack was possible and encouraged residents to avoid the city center.
Ukrainian authorities have yet to comment on the incident.
Over the past month, Ukraine has stepped up attacks on Russian military bases and other installations in Crimea, including air defenses. The latest attack comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky continues his North American tour; Later on Friday, he was scheduled to address Canada’s Parliament.
On Wednesday, Andrii Yusov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s defense intelligence, told Ukrainian television that “Crimea is still used, among other things, as a logistical hub for the transfer of enemy forces to other areas.” In order to destroy this logistics center, certain operations are deployed and implemented: at sea, on land and in the air.”
Friday’s attack shows the vulnerability of critical infrastructure on the peninsula. In short, the Ukrainians attacked the Russian military airfield at Sagi, crippled Russian air defenses along the northwest coast (including taking out an S-400 complex), and launched a missile attack on a key dry dock and ship. -Repair facility at Sevastopol disables attack submarine and landing craft.
Saki Thursday’s attack caused unspecified but “serious damage” to the airfield, according to SBU sources.
There are many reasons for Ukraine to target Crimea. Politically, this is a sign that despite slow progress on the Ukraine front, serious damage can be inflicted on the Russian military. Targets such as the Crimea bridge have considerable symbolic value and strategic purpose.
Attacking Russian logistics, fuel, maintenance and command centers – in Crimea, Zaporizhia, Donetsk and Luhansk – is part of a wider effort to disrupt their ability to supply the front lines.