Two Russian warships were damaged after Ukraine launched an extensive assault on a Russian ship repair base in Crimea early Wednesday morning, officials said, in what appears to be Kyiv’s most ambitious strike on the port since the war began.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said Ukrainian armed forces attacked the Sergo Ordzhonikidze shipyard in Sevastopol, which Russia uses as a repair base for its Black Sea Fleet, with 10 cruise missiles and three unmanned boats.
The ministry said its air defense forces shot down seven of the missiles and that the patrol ship Vasily Bykov destroyed all of the boats.
But Russian officials confirmed that the attack had damaged two Russian warships and left 24 people injured.
Mikhail Razvozhaev, Russian-appointed governor of Sevastopol, the largest city in the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea that was illegally annexed by Moscow’s forces in 2014, confirmed the substantial attack. Videos and images purportedly from the area, some posted by Razvozhaev, show a large plume of smoke and a fire raging.
Razvozhaev later said he was at the site “on the southern grounds of Sevmorzavod… As a result of the attack, according to preliminary information, 24 people were injured, with 4 in moderate condition.”
Two ships were damaged, according to an unofficial Russian military blogger: a diesel-electric submarine “Rostov-on-Don” and the large landing ship “Minsk,” which caught fire. Both vessels were undergoing repairs in dry dock. CNN could not independently verify the account.
Another prominent Russian military blogger said the attack on the Sevastopol shipyard was carried out by the Ukrainian Air Force, which launched 10 Storm Shadow cruise missiles at the facility. The Storm Shadow, jointly developed by the United Kingdom and France, is a cruise missile with stealth capabilities, and is the longest-range weapon in Kyiv’s arsenal.
The blogger, Rybar, said the missiles were launched from Su-24M aircraft over the Black Sea. Rybar said air defenses, including a Pantsir-S1, had brought down seven missiles, but added that “unfortunately, three Storm Shadow missiles reached their target: the landing ship Minsk and the submarine Rostov-on-Don, which were in dry dock, received varying degrees of damage.”
The Rostov-on-Don is a relatively modern Kilo-class submarine capable of carrying Kalibr cruise missiles. CNN could not independently verify the extent of damage done to any vessel.
“After a long break, cruise missile attacks on Crimea have resumed,” Rybar said. “With a very high degree of probability, raids will continue in the coming days (and not only in Sevastopol).”
In an apparent reference to the overnight attack on Sevastopol, the head of the Ukrainian President’s Office, Andriy Yermak, said that “in addition to sanctions pressure and depriving the Russian military-industrial complex of the ability to produce weapons, we need to deprive the Russian army of logistics. Without it, they will not be able to hold our territory.”
“The way to victory on the battlefield is to knock out the logistics of the Russians,” Yermak said.
The commander of Ukraine’s air force, Lieutenant General Mykola Oleshchuk, said Wednesday: “While the occupiers are still recovering from the night-time bombardment in Sevastopol, I would like to thank the pilots of the Ukrainian Air Force for their excellent combat work! To be continued…”
Ukrainian forces have in recent months begun to launch attacks deep into Russian-controlled territory, in a bid to, in the words of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, “return” the war to Russia’s “symbolic centers and military bases.”
In early August, Ukrainian sea drones attacked a major Russian naval base at Novorossiysk, leaving a damaged Russian warship listing in the Black Sea. And in July, Ukraine also launched a sea drone strike on the Kerch Bridge, which links the annexed peninsula to mainland Russia – its second successful attack on the bridge since the war began.
The latest attack comes days after SpaceX founder Elon Musk angered Kyiv after it was revealed that he secretly ordered his engineers not to turn on his company’s Starlink satellite communications network near the Crimean coast last year, foiling a Ukrainian sneak attack on the Russian naval fleet, according to an excerpt adapted from Walter Isaacson’s new biography of Musk that was provided to CNN.
Musk’s decision, which left Ukrainian officials begging him to turn the satellites on, was driven by an acute fear that Russia would respond to a Ukrainian attack on Crimea with nuclear weapons, creating what Musk feared could become a “mini-Pearl Harbor.”