The attack early Wednesday morning in Sevastopol, the largest city in Crimea, marks Ukraine’s most ambitious strike on the port since the war began and comes as Kyiv steps up missile and drone strikes on the peninsula.
On Wednesday, Andrii Yusov, a representative of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine, said the landing ship Minsk and the submarine Rostov-on-Don had been destroyed in the attack. Both had been undergoing repairs at the time.
Speaking to Ukrainian media, Yusov called the destruction of the landing ship an “irreparable loss” to the Russian sea fleet, because, as he claimed, Russians do not produce such ships any longer. He added that the Defense Intelligence doesn’t want to get into the details of what weapon was used to hit the shipyard, but that the demilitarization of occupied Ukrainian territories is underway.
CNN cannot independently verify Ukraine’s claims.
In recent weeks Ukraine has focused its efforts on Crimea, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014, and is a strategically vital logistics hub for Russia’s war effort due to its location on the Black Sea.
Kyiv insists its strikes on naval bases and vessels in Crimea are an integral part of their counteroffensive strategy, intended to isolate the peninsula and make it more difficult for Russia to sustain its military operations on the Ukrainian mainland, a Ukrainian source familiar with the strategy told CNN.
A day after the Sevastopol attack, Ukraine carried out another operation, attacking two ships in the early hours of Thursday morning. The ships were of the Project 22160 type in the southwestern part of the Black Sea, said a statement from Ukraine’s General Staff.
The Defense Intelligence arm released video of the incident, showing what appears to be a Russian patrol ship coming under attack from naval drones. The night vision footage appears to have been recorded from one of the drones as it moves towards the patrol ship, which appears to open fire as the attack vessels close in.
The General Staff said later Thursday that the strikes had caused “some damage.”
Russia’s Defense Ministry also acknowledged that one of its ships, “Sergei Kotov,” had come under attack overnight. “In the course of repelling the attack, five enemy unmanned boats were destroyed by [the ship’s] fire,” a ministry statement said, though it did not make reference to any attack on a second patrol ship.
Also on Thursday, Ukrainian forces in the Crimean city Yevpatoria destroyed a Russian air defense complex in an overnight attack using cruise missiles and drones. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the operation “a triumph” in his nightly address, adding: “It is a very significant achievement, well done!”
The shift in focus to Crimea also came after Russia allowed the Black Sea Grain Initiative to lapse in July. The agreement, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations in July 2022, allowed the export of Ukrainian grain – until the deal expired, with Moscow declining to renew the pact.
Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has since resumed its blockade of Ukraine’s ports, preventing vital grain exports and threatening global food security.
There are also other restrictions at play within Europe; in May, the European Commission banned imports of Ukrainian agricultural products to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia until June 5, a measure aimed to ease logistical bottlenecks and protect local farmers from being undercut in price by cheaper Ukrainian grain.
In June, the European Union decided to gradually reduce precautions for the import of Ukrainian products until September 15 – this Friday. On Thursday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he expects the European Commission to “keep its word” and lift all restrictions on Ukrainian grain exports by Friday, saying it would not be “acceptable” to continue the ban.