Ukraine’s navy claimed on Monday that it had killed the commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in a strike on Crimea — a blow that, if confirmed, could be among the many most damaging suffered by the Russian Navy for the reason that sinking of the fleet’s flagship final yr.
Citing “new details about the losses of the enemy because of the particular operation,” Ukraine’s particular operations forces stated in an announcement that the strike on Friday killed 34 officers, together with the fleet commander, and wounded 105 others. It didn’t identify the naval chief, however the commander of the Black Sea Fleet is Adm. Viktor Sokolov, probably the most senior officers in Russia’s Navy.
The assault got here throughout a gathering of Russian commanders, Ukraine’s navy stated, and badly broken a headquarters of the Russian fleet in Sevastopol, Crimea. The chief of Ukrainian navy intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, additionally instructed Voice of America on Saturday that the strike had badly wounded two senior Russian generals — Col. Gen. Aleksandr Romanchuk and Lieut. Gen. Oleg Tsekov. There was no additional phrase from both aspect on their situation.
There was no fast remark from Russia’s Protection Ministry on the standing of any of its commanders, and there was no impartial verification of the claims.
In current weeks, Ukraine has sharply elevated the tempo of strikes in Crimea, a strategically very important peninsula illegally annexed by Moscow practically a decade in the past. Kyiv has used missiles and aerial and maritime drones to assault warships, a naval port, bridges and navy depots.
By going after Crimea, analysts say, Ukraine is making it tougher for the Kremlin to make use of the area as a logistics hub for the territory it seized final yr in southern Ukraine, the place Russia is now battling a Ukrainian counteroffensive. It’s also elevating the value that Moscow should pay to keep up management of the peninsula and use it as the bottom for a fleet that usually fires missiles into Ukraine, assaults and makes an attempt to implement a blockade on Ukrainian ports.
“Any goal inside Crimea is basically truthful sport to display to the Russians they don’t have safety, they don’t management skies over Crimea, they’re weak to Ukrainian strikes, and Ukraine can get to them each time it desires,” stated Samuel Bendett, an analyst of Russia’s navy at CNA, a suppose tank based mostly close to Washington.
Russia on Monday fired a barrage of drones and missiles on the Ukrainian port metropolis of Odesa, a hub of the grain export commerce that Ukraine has tried to keep up regardless of Russian efforts to cripple it. Ukraine’s navy stated it had shot down a lot of the weapons, however officers stated one had hit a grain warehouse, killing two individuals, and others had broken a marine terminal and an deserted high-rise resort.
The assault on Sevastopol on Friday used a mix of missiles and exploding drones to overwhelm Russian air defenses, in keeping with Ukraine’s navy. Video footage confirmed the headquarters constructing smoking as an airborne weapon plunged into it and detonated it, sending particles flying and engulfing it in a cloud of thick smoke and particles.
The Russian information company TASS featured an image exhibiting a part of the constructing caved in, and an evaluation of satellite images earlier than and after the assault additionally confirmed that the constructing was closely broken.
If Ukraine’s claims are correct — that it knew of the high-level Russian assembly, discovered the identities of these hit and was capable of get hold of casualty counts — the statements would point out an intelligence coup in addition to a navy one.
It was not clear what weapons had been used on Friday, however Ukraine has lately deployed Storm Shadow cruise missiles given by Britain and practically similar SCALP cruise missiles provided by France that reportedly can journey greater than 300 miles, far past the vary of different Western weapons utilized by Ukraine.
The strikes have uncovered flaws in Russia’s system of air defenses, in keeping with Mr. Budanov, forcing Moscow to redeploy antimissile batteries from elsewhere on the battlefield to Crimea.
“We’re depleting their air-defense missile shares as a result of these are usually not limitless,” he stated. “And from the political standpoint, we’re additionally demonstrating the apparent lack of ability of Russian air protection techniques.”
The Ukrainian assertion on Monday additionally asserted that an assault earlier this month on one of many Russian fleet’s touchdown ships, the Minsk, had killed 62 sailors — one other declare that would not be independently verified. It didn’t specify a date, however on Sept. 12, a Ukrainian assault on Sevastopol broken two navy ships, in keeping with the Russian Protection Ministry. Professional-war Russian navy bloggers and the Russian news outlet Baza recognized them because the Minsk and an assault submarine.
Although it stays the paramount naval energy within the Black Sea, the Russian fleet there has suffered a number of setbacks. In April, 2022, Ukraine sank the Moskva cruiser, the fleet’s flagship vessel, with a missile assault. In August 2023, it used naval drones to break a Russian warship on the far aspect of the Black Sea.
Crimea is central to the expansive territorial imaginative and prescient that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has outlined, so Moscow’s lack of ability to guard it from strikes is a humiliation to the Kremlin, analysts stated.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine insists that his nation will retake the entire territory annexed by Russia, together with Crimea, however for years Moscow had confronted no navy problem to its occupation of the peninsula. The Kremlin promoted immigration from Russia to Crimea, and the area’s balmy local weather and seashores attracted Russian vacationers, because it had for generations.
On the identical time, a regional administration put in by the Kremlin after it seized Crimea in 2014 cracked down on dissent. Worldwide human rights teams and Crimean activists say that scores of individuals, principally from the peninsula’s Tatar ethnic group, have been arrested and detained in brutal situations.
When Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, its forces used Crimea as a jumping-off level to grab components of southern Ukraine, establishing a land bridge that connects to Russian-occupied areas farther east.
In the long run, Moscow goals to experience out the Ukrainian assaults, conscious that Ukrainian floor forces are nonetheless removed from reaching Crimea, a lot much less retaking it, in keeping with Dmitri Kuznets, an impartial analyst of the battle who writes for Meduza, a Russian information web site.
Ukrainian shares of longer-range missiles are finite, he stated, including that, whereas damaging, the marketing campaign of strikes had not but reached a crucial level for Moscow.
“The aim is to disrupt Russian logistics and management with a purpose to achieve a bonus on the entrance,” he stated. “To attain this, strikes are carried out not solely in Crimea, but additionally all through the south of Ukraine. On this sense, progress has been restricted to this point.”
Reporting was contributed by Fixed Méheut, Ivan Nechepurenko, Andrés R. Martínez, Arijeta Lajka and Neil MacFarquhar.
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