Drone explosion hits headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet

Kyiv, Ukraine — A small explosive device carried by an improvised drone exploded at the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet on the Crimean Peninsula on Sunday, killing six people and prompting the cancellation of ceremonies there honoring in the Russian navy, officials said.

Meanwhile, one of Ukraine’s richest men, a grain merchant, was killed in what Ukrainian authorities said was a Russian missile attack on his home.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the explosion of a drone in a yard at the naval headquarters in the city of Sevastopol. But the seemingly improvised and small-scale nature of the attack raised the possibility that it was the work of Ukrainian insurgents trying to drive out Russian forces.

A Russian lawmaker from Crimea, Olga Kovitidi, told the Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti that the drone was launched from Sevastopol itself. He said the incident was being treated as a terrorist act, the news agency said.

Crimean authorities raised the terror threat level for the region to “yellow”, the second highest level.

Sevastopol, which Russia captured along with the rest of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, is about 170 kilometers (100 miles) south of mainland Ukraine. Russian forces control much of the continent along the Black Sea.

The press service of the Black Sea Fleet said that the drone appeared to be homemade. He described the explosive device as “low powered.” Sevastopol Mayor Mikhail Razvozhaev said six people were injured. Russian Navy Day celebrations were canceled in the city.


Members of the Russian Navy patrol in front of the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol in Crimea on July 31, 2022.

STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images

Ukraine’s navy and an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the reported drone strike highlighted the weakness of Russian air defenses.

“Did the occupiers admit the impotence of their air defense system? Or their impotence in the face of Crimean supporters?” Oleksiy Arestovich said on Telegram.

If such an attack is possible from Ukraine, he said, “the destruction of the Crimean bridge in these situations no longer seems unrealistic,” a reference to the space Russia built to connect its continent in Crimea after the annexation.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, the mayor of the main port city of Mykolaiv, Vitaliy Kim, said shelling killed one of Ukraine’s richest men, Oleksiy Vadatursky, and his wife, Raisa. Vadatursky ran a grain production and export business.

Another presidential adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, said Vadatursky was specifically targeted.

“It was not an accident, but a well-thought-out and organized premeditated murder. Vadatursky was one of the largest farmers in the country, a key person in the region and a big businessman. That the exact impact of a rocket was not only in a house, but in one particular wing, the bedroom, leaves no doubt as to the orientation and fit of the strike,” he said.

Vadatursky’s agribusiness, Nibulon, includes a fleet of ships to ship grain abroad.

In the Sumy region of northern Ukraine, near the Russian border, a shelling killed one person, the regional administration said. And three people were killed in attacks over the past day in the Donetsk region, which is partly under the control of Russian-backed separatist forces, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

Podolyak said on Twitter that footage of the prison, which held at least 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war killed in an explosion on Friday indicated that the explosion came from the Olenivka building, which is under Russian control.

Russian officials have claimed that the building was attacked by Ukraine with the aim of silencing prisoners of war who might be providing information about Ukrainian military operations. Ukraine has blamed Russia for the explosion.

Satellite photos taken before and after show that a small, square building in the middle of the prison complex was demolished, the roof in splinters.

Podolyak said those images and the lack of damage to adjacent structures showed the building was not attacked from the air or by artillery. He claimed the evidence was consistent with a thermobaric bomb, a powerful device sometimes called a vacuum bomb, being fired inside.

The International Red Cross called for immediate visits to the prison to ensure the dozens of wounded prisoners of war were receiving proper treatment, but said Sunday its request had yet to be granted. He said denying access to the Red Cross would violate the Geneva Convention on the Rights of Prisoners of War.

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