Ukraine strikes Russian ports in Novorossiysk and occupied Crimea

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s navy and main internal security service, the SBU, used sea drones early Friday to attack a Russian naval base near the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, a Ukrainian government official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.

The attack, which the official said damaged a large Russian warship, the “Olenegorsky Miner,” was another display of Kyiv’s ability to reach targets within its enemy’s borders.

Such strikes, typically done with air or sea drones, have become more frequent as Ukraine shows an increasing commitment to bring the fight to Russian soil after more than 17 months of enduring attacks on Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure.

While Russia’s Defense Ministry accused Ukraine of using two sea drones to attack the naval base near Novorossiysk, it said that it had detected and destroyed the uncrewed boats that had launched the drones and that there was no damage to the warship. But unverified videos on social media showed a large Russian ship being towed to port, appearing to list to one side.

The Olenegorsky Miner is an amphibious landing vessel that can carry heavy cargo and military vehicles.

The contradictory accounts by Russia’s Defense Ministry and Russian military bloggers who posted videos of the damaged ship highlighted the country’s difficulty in controlling the information sphere when military setbacks arise.

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Ukraine’s increasing drone attacks, which also targeted Moscow skyscrapers this week, have been an embarrassment for Russia as it has struggled to prevent the strikes while Ukraine’s air defenses contend with a wide array of Russian drones and missiles on a near-nightly basis.

Ukrainian officials rarely take public credit for the attacks on Russian territory, but they have repeatedly hinted at responsibility, adding that the strikes will continue as long as Russia occupies Ukrainian land.

“We are all grateful to the Security Service of Ukraine for returning the war to the aggressor state,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his address Friday. “What you bring to the world, you end up with it yourself.”

Kyiv cannot use Western-provided weapons in assaults on mainland Russia, and Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s commander in chief, told The Washington Post in an interview in June that Ukraine uses its own weaponry in such cases.

The extent of the damage on Friday was unclear, but the reach of the sea drones could force Moscow to move its Black Sea fleet, fearing its vulnerability.

As Ukraine has no real naval fleet of its own, sea drones loaded with explosives have become a vital tool for countering the Russians on the Black Sea.

The drones were first used in an attack last year near the port of Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014. They were also used in an attack in July on the Crimean Bridge, which Russia built in 2018 to link its mainland with the occupied peninsula. The SBU was responsible for those attacks, too, the Ukrainian official said.

In a separate pre-dawn attack Friday, the Russian naval port in Feodosia, on Crimea, was hit by long-range aerial drones, the Russian Defense Ministry said. The ministry claimed to have shot down 10 drones while three others were suppressed by electronic warfare, adding that there was no damage to Russian weaponry.

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Natalia Humeniuk, a spokeswoman for the Ukrainian military’s southern command, told Radio Liberty that the Russian fleet uses a large oil storage facility at the port in Feodosia and that “we should continue to expect explosions there.”

The attacks targeting Russia’s Black Sea infrastructure and vessels are likely in response to recent attacks on Ukrainian ports and grain storage facilities after Russian President Vladimir Putin last month terminated a United Nations-brokered deal that allowed grain exports from the Black Sea.

Russian strikes on Monday targeted grain warehouses along the Danube River — a key alternative route for exports after the collapse of the Black Sea deal — and appeared to be aimed at crippling the country’s entire agricultural industry. Agriculture accounted for about 20 percent of Ukraine’s economy before Russia’s invasion.

Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential office, said in a post on the Telegram messaging app: “The enemy will increasingly feel the inevitability of his defeat. Our victory will become the basis for preserving the world order.”

Natalia Abbakumova in Riga, Latvia, and Serhiy Morgunov in Stuttgart, Germany, contributed to this report.

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