Russia has claimed that its Black Sea fleet headquarters in Sevastopol have been hit by a Ukrainian drone strike, wounding five people and prompting officials to cancel festivities planned for Navy Day.
The attack was reported by Mikhail Razvozhayev, the head of the local Russian administration in Sevastopol in Crimea, which was occupied and then annexed in 2014.
“Early this morning, [Ukraine] decided to spoil our Navy Day,” he posted. “An unidentified object flew into the yard of the fleet headquarters, according to preliminary data, it was a drone. Five people were injured, these are employees of the fleet headquarters, there were no fatalities.
“All celebratory events have been cancelled due to safety concerns,” he wrote. “I ask you to stay calm and stay at home if possible.”
A spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern command, Natalia Gumenyuk, did not confirm Ukrainian involvement in the strike. But she said Ukraine was conducting operations to liberate Russian-occupied areas by targeting Russian military facilities inside Ukraine, not Russia, and that it considered Crimea part of Ukraine.
“Ukraine’s armed forces are carrying out activities to liberate our occupied territories, using the weapons models that are available for this purpose. Our targets are exclusively the military facilities of the Russian Federation. We do not strike on the territory of the Russian Federation. Crimea is Ukraine,” she said.
Photographs posted on Razvozhayev’s account showed bloodstains and broken glass at the entrance to a military building. A popular Russian military account said the location was the entrance to a cafeteria, 40 to 50 metres from the internal courtyard where Russian officials said the drone had struck.
No names or ranks were given for those injured in the attack.
The strike is the latest setback for the Black Sea fleet in the five-month-old war against Ukraine. Ukraine sank the flagship of the Black Sea fleet, the Moskva cruiser, in a missile strike in April. Authorities took days to confirm the attack, leading families of the conscript sailors onboard to take to social media demanding more information on their loved ones’ fates.
It is still unclear how many sailors were killed in the Moskva attack. Russia has confirmed only one death onboard, while dozens of sailors are listed as missing.
The Russian navy also lost the Saratov Alligator-class landing ship to a fire reportedly caused by a Ukrainian missile strike on the Berdiansk port in March, as well as a landing craft and a number of patrol boats to drone strikes near Snake Island.
The Moskva would have been conspicuously absent from Russia’s Navy Day festivities, which were meant to include a tour of the ships in Sevastopol Bay by the fleet commander, as well as a concert and fireworks, according to Russian state media.
Sevastopol is at the southern tip of Crimea and is located hundreds of miles from the frontlines, making it more likely that the attack was launched from Russian-controlled territory. A spokesperson for the Black Sea fleet called the drone “homemade” and said it was carrying a small explosive onboard.
Vladimir Putin has travelled to Kronstadt in St Petersburg, the main base of Russia’s Baltic Fleet, to mark the Navy Day celebrations.