The missile strike that hit the Crimean headquarters of Russia’s navy last week killed 34 officers, including the fleet commander, Ukraine said on Monday, though it provided no evidence to support its claim.
Ukraine’s Special Operation Forces said on the Telegram messaging app that its strike on the main building of the Black Sea Fleet headquarters in the port city of Sevastopol had wounded 105 people.
The claims could not independently be verified and are vastly different from what Russia has reported.
Russia’s military announced the attack on the building and initially said one serviceman was killed, but later said the person was not killed but missing. Moscow has provided no further updates.
The Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014, has been a frequent target since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine 20 months ago.
Crimea has served as the key hub supporting the invasion.
Ukraine has increasingly targeted naval facilities in Crimea in recent weeks while the brunt of its summer counteroffensive makes slow gains in the east and south of Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War said.
It followed Friday’s attack with another barrage on Saturday.
The new death and casualty figures are a steep increase from what Ukraine’s intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, told Voice of America on Saturday, when he said at least nine people were killed and 16 others wounded in the attack that left the building smouldering.
He also said Alexander Romanchuk, a Russian general commanding forces along the key southeastern front line, was “in a very serious condition”.
The new report indicates that the fleet’s chief, Admiral Viktor Sokolov, was also killed, though no supporting evidence was offered.
He was not named in the statement by the Special Operation Forces, but Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the minister of internal affairs of Ukraine, posted his name and a photo on social media.
Ukraine’s military also offered more details about Friday’s attack. It said the air force conducted 12 strikes on the Black Sea Fleet headquarters, targeting areas where personnel, military equipment and weapons were concentrated.
It said that two anti-aircraft missile systems and four Russian artillery units were hit.
The casualty figures were announced as Russian drone and missile strike near Odesa damaged infrastructure, a grain silo and an abandoned hotel, injuring one person in the Black Sea port city.
In the past day, Russian attacks elsewhere in Ukraine killed six civilians and wounded 13, Ukrainian officials said.
Ukraine’s air force reported downing all Russian drones launched overnight, but one of 12 Kalibr missiles and two P-800 Oniks cruise missiles apparently made it past air defences.
Russia has continuously targeted port and grain storage facilities in Odesa since pulling out of a wartime deal that allowed Ukrainian grain exports to countries facing the threat of hunger.
The attacks have destroyed silos, warehouses, oil terminals and other infrastructure critical for storage and shipping.
The Russian defence ministry said long-range missiles and drones were used to strike facilities that it alleged had housed foreign mercenaries and trained saboteurs.
The ministry did not name locations or provide other specifics to support its claim. It also said it downed several Ukrainian drones.
The illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is continuing.
The map below is the latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 25 September 2023.
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— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) September 25, 2023
The attacks came as independent UN-backed human rights experts said they found new evidence of war crimes committed by Russian forces and as President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the arrival of the first Abrams tanks sent by the US that could figure in their slow-moving summer counteroffensive
The UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine said it found evidence of crimes committed by both sides in the war, but far more by Russians, including instances of torture, some of it fatal, and rape of women as old as 83.
It said it was also looking into allegations that Russian forces committed genocide.
Mr Zelensky thanked allies on Telegram for their support in announcing the anticipated arrival of the tanks. He did not say how many tanks had arrived, but the US has said it was sending 31 tanks.
In other fighting, Russian forces also dropped bombs and launched six heavy artillery strikes on southern Ukraine’s Kherson region, destroying a school and factory and damaging residential buildings.
In eastern Ukraine, Russians attacked residential areas of 10 cities and villages in the Donetsk region, killing two people in the village of Zarichne, according to the presidential office.
During fighting in southeast Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, the Russian army carried out five airstrikes on Orikhiv, a small city, and its surrounding area.
The Russian defence ministry said its air defences downed three Ukrainian drones over the Kursk region of Russia and three others over the Bryansk region early Monday.
It also reported that three drones were shot down over the Belgorod region.