The Russian-installed authorities in occupied Crimea said Ukrainian forces targeted the peninsula with another air attack on Saturday, the second in two days as Kyiv increasingly takes aim at the region in an effort to disrupt Moscow’s military operations.
Mikhail Razvozhayev, the governor of Sevastopol, Crimea’s largest city and the home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, said that air defenses had been activated in the area and that debris from a downed rocket fell in the bay. The local authorities issued several warnings about possible air assaults on Saturday morning, urging residents to stay calm and seek shelter.
Saturday’s attack, which was not immediately confirmed by Ukraine’s military, came a day after Ukrainian forces launched a missile strike that damaged the Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters. Russia’s Defense Ministry said that a serviceman was missing after that attack.
The back-to-back assaults on Crimea, which the Kremlin illegally annexed in 2014, are part of a Ukrainian campaign to hit deep behind Russian lines in an effort to sever Moscow’s battlefield supply chain and undermine Russia’s ability to hit Ukrainian territory from afar. In recent weeks, Ukraine has sharply accelerated the pace of strikes on the peninsula, hitting air-defense systems, a submarine and a command post.
Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion last year, Moscow has used Crimea to stockpile fuel and ammunition to be funneled to the battlefields in southern Ukraine, where Kyiv is currently trying to break through Russian defensive lines. Ships from the Black Sea Fleet also have fired hundreds of missiles at Ukraine.
“A lot of Ukrainian cities and towns are within reach from Crimea,” Samuel Bendett, a Russian weapons analyst at the Center for Naval Analysis, said in an interview. “Controlling Crimea is essential if Russia wants to maintain its war effort and to keep Ukraine off balance and to maintain its positions in the territories it already captured.”
It was not immediately clear whether Saturday’s attack had hit any strategic targets. Mr. Razvozhayev said that debris had fallen near the pier in the Sukharnaya Bay — part of the larger Sevastopol Bay, which houses many military vessels and submarines — and in a park just a mile north of the harbor. The Russian state news agency Tass reported that emergency services had left for the scene and that passenger ship traffic had been suspended.
The intensified attacks on Sevastopol and Russia’s military fleet come as Kyiv is trying to secure part of the Black Sea following Moscow’s withdrawal from a deal that allowed Ukraine to export its grain by sea. Russia’s military warned at around the same time that it would consider any ship approaching a Ukrainian port a potential military threat.
Since then, Kyiv has been trying to establish a safe corridor for civilian freighters. This week, two ships loaded with grain safely sailed through the corridor.
Here’s what else is happening in the war:
Russian Attacks: Russian forces attacked multiple cities and villages over the past day, Ukrainian authorities said on Saturday. At least three civilians were killed and dozens of others injured in strikes on the Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Poltava regions.
Poland Dispute: President Andrzej Duda of Poland said on Friday that a dispute with Ukraine over grain imports would not significantly affect the countries’ bilateral relations, in an apparent move to ease recent tensions. Poland last week decided to maintain a ban on Ukrainian grain imports, in defiance of the European Union’s policy, arguing that cheap Ukrainian grain undermined its domestic market.
The move prompted Ukraine to filed a complaint before the World Trade Organization, and President Volodymyr Zelensky to tell the U.N. General Assembly that some European countries were politicizing the grain issue. Poland is holding general elections next month in which farmers form an important voting bloc.
Zelensky Trip: Mr. Zelensky has wrapped up his trip to North America, writing Saturday on social media that he held an unscheduled meeting at the airport in Shannon, Ireland, with the leader of Sudan’s military, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Mr. Zelensky had been in Canada on Friday following his appearance at the General Assembly and visit to Washington.