Ukraine fired missiles and drones into the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula, Russian and Ukrainian officials said Thursday, as Moscow’s forces attacked regions across Ukraine.
Ukraine’s military command said its forces attacked a Russian air base near the town of Saki, on Crimea’s western coast, but gave no details of any casualties or damage. Earlier on Thursday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had destroyed 19 Ukrainian drones over Crimea and the surrounding Black Sea, thwarting an attack.
The Ukrainian and Russian claims could not be independently verified.
The Ukrainian military has long maintained that targeting Russian assets and operations in Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, is crucial to the war effort. The peninsula is a hub for the Russian military, which keeps troops, fuel, ammunition and other supplies there to direct to its forces on the front lines in southern Ukraine.
Ukraine has intensified its attacks on Crimea in recent weeks. Last week, an attack targeted the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, damaging two ships and starting a fire at a sprawling naval shipyard considered important to Russia’s war effort.
Unverified videos posted on social networks by channels in Crimea reported explosions in the vicinity of the Saki airbase. In one such video, the buzzing of a drone can be heard, followed by the sound of an explosion.
The Saki base came under Ukrainian attack last year. Satellite photos taken after a series of explosions there appeared to show at least eight destroyed fighter jets.
Rybar, an influential Russian military blogger, said on Thursday that eight long-range Storm Shadow missiles had been launched in Crimea. He added that five were intercepted by air defenses, while the remaining three fell near the port city of Sevastopol, home to the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. The claims could not be independently verified.
“We ask all Crimean people to remain calm,” Oleg Kryuchkov, adviser to Moscow-appointed Crimea Governor Sergei Aksyonov, said on Telegram. He added in another message that a cyber attack had targeted government websites and media in Crimea. The claim of a cyber attack could not be independently verified.