No further details were provided about the strike, and it was not immediately clear what type of missiles were used, but the commander of Ukraine’s air force issued a statement that appeared to mock Russia’s claims that all the missiles were fired at the Sevastopol headquarters. Shot down by air defenses. The report also mentions another strike on a Russian base in the occupied city of Melitopol earlier this week.
“We promised there would be more,” Air Force Commander Mykola Oleschuk posted on social media. “So, when the invaders are recovering in Melitopol, and the air alarms are still sounding in Sevastopol, thank you once again to the pilots of the Air Force!”
“All missiles intercepted!” Oleschuk continued with clear sarcasm. “I hope that next time the Russian air defense will not let us down again. Sevastopol is the city of the naval forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine! Together – to victory!”
Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Defense and Security Council, tweeted that Russian forces must destroy their ships before Ukrainian forces arrive.
“Otherwise, the Russian Black Sea Fleet will be sliced like a salami,” wrote Danilov. “The process is painful, but Ukraine’s armed forces conduct exclusively precision attacks on military infrastructure.”
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While the Ukrainian claims could not be independently confirmed, a video posted on social media on Friday, verified by Storyful and confirmed by The Washington Post, showed smoke rising from the Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters building. There is no concrete information on casualties.
Damage to the building, however, would represent a significant failure of Russia’s air defenses. Russia has maintained a Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol since the collapse of the Soviet Union under a lease agreement. Russian military personnel stationed there are believed to have participated in the 2014 invasion of Crimea, which was carried out by unmarked uniformed soldiers using Russian military vehicles with license plates removed.
The fleet and its headquarters are obvious, high-profile targets for Ukraine, which has vowed to expel Russian invaders from all of its territory — including Crimea and the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which have been under Russian control since 2014.
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The attack on Sevastopol follows several attacks in recent weeks in Crimea and specifically on the Black Sea fleet, including an apparent missile attack on a submarine and a landing craft in Sevastopol earlier this month. Another attack reportedly damaged a Russian air defense system.
Crimea’s Kremlin-backed governor, Mikhail Rasvosayev, confirmed on social media that the missile had hit the Black Sea naval headquarters. He said firefighters were trying to put out the blaze in the building and that the shock wave from the blast had “broken glass in 10 residential buildings in the city centre”.
Russian news channels said six people were injured, but there was no official confirmation of that number. Russia’s Defense Ministry initially said one person had been killed, later changing it to “missing”.
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Photos posted on social media showed a large hole in the upper floors of the building and smoke billowing into the center of Sevastopol. Russian officials said on Friday that they had intercepted all five missiles.
On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky continued a whirlwind trip to North America, visiting Canada, where he planned to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa and address parliament. Zelensky will travel to Toronto to meet with business leaders.
The visit follows his remarks at a high-level debate at the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council in New York earlier in the week, followed by meetings with President Biden at the White House in Washington, congressional leaders at the Capitol and military commanders at the Pentagon.
Natalia Appakumova and Anastasia Kalochka in Riga, Latvia contributed to this report.