Ukraine fired missiles and drones at the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula, Russian and Ukrainian officials said on Thursday, as Moscow’s forces attacked regions across Ukraine.
Ukraine’s military command said its forces had attacked a Russian air base near the city of Saki, on Crimea’s western coast, but did not give details of any casualties or damage. Earlier on Thursday, Russia’s defense ministry said it had destroyed 19 Ukrainian drones over Crimea and the surrounding Black Sea, thwarting an attack.
The Ukrainian and Russian claims could not be independently verified.
Ukraine’s military has long maintained that taking aim at Russian assets and operations in Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, is critical to its war effort. The peninsula is a hub for the Russian military, which keeps troops, fuel, ammunition and other supplies there to funnel to its forces on the front lines in southern Ukraine.
Ukraine has intensified its attacks on Crimea in recent weeks. Last week, an attack targeted the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, damaging two ships and starting a fire at a sprawling naval shipyard that is seen as important to the Russian war effort.
Unverified videos posted on social networks by Crimean-based channels reported explosions in the area of the Saki Air Base. In one such video, the buzzing of a drone can be heard followed by the sound of an explosion.
The Saki base came under Ukrainian attack last year. Satellite photos taken after a series of explosions there appeared to show at least eight wrecked warplanes.
Rybar, an influential Russian military blogger, said Thursday that eight long-range Storm Shadow missiles had been launched at Crimea. He added that five were intercepted by air defenses, while the remaining three fell near the port city of Sevastopol, which is home to the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The claims could not be independently verified.
“We ask all Crimeans to remain calm,” Oleg Kryuchkov, an adviser to the Moscow-appointed governor of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, said on Telegram. He added in another message that a cyberattack had targeted government websites and media in Crimea. The claim of a cyberattack could not be independently verified.