Ukrainian sea drones attacked a major Russian port on the Black Sea on Friday, damaging a naval ship, according to a Ukrainian official, the latest in a series of strikes inside Russia as Kyiv vowed to bring the fight home to them. Moscow claimed it repelled the attack.
The strike on Novorossiysk marks the first time a commercial Russian port has been targeted in the 18-month war. The port — which hosts a naval base, shipbuilding yards and an oil terminal and is key for exports — lies just across the Black Sea from Crimea, where Russia’s Defense Ministry said it thwarted another attack overnight, taking down 13 drones.
The Security Service of Ukraine and the country's navy carried out the attack on Novorossiysk, according to an official with the security service, and the landing ship, Olenegorsky Gornyak, suffered a serious breach. As a result, the ship is unable to carry out its combat missions, the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give the information to the media.
Ukrainian news agencies carried footage from social media channels that they suggested showed the Olenegorsky Gornyak listing to one side. The ship is designed to transport troops and heavy equipment and was sent for repairs in 2014, according to Russian media reports. It is normally based with Russia’s Northern Fleet in the Arctic.
Russia, however, claimed it fended off the attack on Novorossiysk, saying ships patrolling the perimeter of the naval base, including the Olenegorsky Gornyak, destroyed two sea drones. The Caspian Pipeline Consortium, which operates an oil terminal in the port, said maritime traffic was halted for a few hours but that its facilities were not damaged. The regional governor said there were no casualties.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to comment on the attack during a conference call with reporters.
Footage published on Russian social media channels appeared to show a ship firing into the sea and a burning object exploding. Ukrainian social media channels also posted nighttime video shot from what they indicated was a sea drone, floating near a ship. The Associated Press could not verify the videos.
Friday's attack is the latest in a string of assaults inside Russian territory. Earlier this week, drones hit a building in Moscow — and a drone even struck the Kremlin harmlessly in May.
The assault comes as the Black Sea becomes an increasingly important battleground in the war following Russia's withdrawal from a deal that had allowed Ukrainian grain shipments through the sea. Since scrapping the deal, Russia has hammered the country’s ports, compounding the blow to food markets worldwide.
On Wednesday, Russian drones caused significant damage and a huge fire at facilities in the Odesa region that are key to Ukrainian grain exports. A day earlier, the Russian military said Kyiv’s forces tried to attack two patrol vessels in the sea, southwest of the Russian-controlled city of Sevastopol on the annexed Crimean peninsula.
Shortly after Russia invaded, Ukraine said it successfully sunk the flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet, the Moskva. Ukraine said it hit the Moskva, a guided-missile cruiser, with missiles in a devastating symbolic blow to Russia.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the heavily damaged Moskva sank in a storm under tow after being gutted by fire. It previously said a fire set off some of its weapons and forced the crew to evacuate. It denied there had been an attack by Ukraine on the ship.
Minutes after confirming the attack on the Black Sea port early Friday morning, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said it had also repelled another attack by Ukraine on Crimea. The Defense Ministry said air defense systems shot down 10 drones and it had electronically jammed another three.
Videos shared on Russian social media channels reportedly from around the city of Feodosia in Crimea showed what appeared to be air defense systems working, as well as loud explosions.
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