Ukraine used air and sea drones to mount assaults early Friday on two Russian-controlled ports in the Black Sea, including a key naval and shipping hub, Russian officials said, in an apparent expansion of Ukraine’s campaign to strike targets of strategic and symbolic importance to Moscow far from the front lines of the war.
The attacks came as Russia has bombarded Ukrainian ports along the Black Sea and Danube River, imperiling Kyiv’s grain exports and threatening global food security, and were another sign of Ukraine’s ability to deploy its growing drone arsenal to pierce even well defended Russian targets.
Russian officials said that the port of Novorossiysk, in southwestern Russia, and a port on the occupied Crimean Peninsula were targeted in the latest strikes.
The extent of any damage in Novorossiysk, a base for the Russian Navy’s prized Black Sea Fleet that also houses an oil terminal and other infrastructure, was not immediately clear. Russian military bloggers posted unverified video on social media that they said showed a large Russian ship listing and being towed to port there. After the video began circulating, the Russian-appointed head of Crimea, Oleg Kryuchkov, criticized bloggers for allowing Ukraine to see “the results of their attack.”
Two Ukrainian officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military matters, said the attack on Novorossiysk was a joint operation of the Security Service of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Navy. One Ukrainian official said the Russian ship Olenegorsky Gornyak, a large amphibious landing vessel that can carry heavy cargo and military vehicles, was damaged in the strike.
The Russian Ministry of Defense said the attack caused no damage and that all the drones were neutralized, claiming that two uncrewed surface vessels were shot out of the water before reaching the base.
Movement of ships at the port in Novorossiysk was temporarily halted, the Russian state media said, citing the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, a group that manages oil exports through the port. The regional governor, Veniamin Kondratiev, also claimed there were no injuries or damage.
In a separate assault before dawn, the Russian naval port in Feodosia, in occupied Crimea, was attacked by long-range aerial drones, the Russian Defense Ministry said. It claimed to have shot down 10 Ukrainian drones and disabled three more, and said there was no damage.
Publicly, Ukraine did not claim responsibility for the attack in Novorossiysk, with a spokesman for the Ukrainian Navy saying it had “nothing to do” with it. Kyiv has maintained a policy of deliberate ambiguity about attacks inside Russia, but President Volodymyr Zelensky has signaled that more attacks within Russia’s borders would come.
Ukraine was less circumspect about the assault in Crimea on Friday. Natalia Humeniuk, a spokeswoman for the Ukrainian military’s southern command, told Radio Liberty that the Russian Black Sea Fleet uses a large oil storage facility at the port in Feodosia, and “therefore, we should continue to expect explosions there.”
The strikes come amid escalating tensions around the Black Sea. Since pulling out of an internationally brokered agreement that allowed Kyiv to export millions of tons of grain, Russian drones and missiles have bombarded the Ukrainian ports of Odesa, Mykolaiv, Reni and Izmail, destroying more than 200,000 tons of grain, according to Ukrainian officials.
The port in Novorossiysk is a key shipping hub for Russia’s own agricultural products. When Russia agreed to the deal that allowed Ukraine to export grain last summer, Moscow insisted that the European Union clarify that sanctions imposed on Russia would not affect Novorossiysk, allowing banks, insurers and other companies to participate in the export of Russian grains and fertilizers without violating the restrictions.
- Russia Accuses Ukraine of Attacks on 2 Black Sea Ports
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