KYIV — Ukrainian forces on Friday fired a barrage of missiles at the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, in occupied Crimea — striking a target thought to be heavily protected and demonstrating Kyiv’s growing ability to attack Russian military infrastructure throughout the peninsula.
Ukraine’s Air Force posted a statement saying that “around 12:00, the Ukrainian defense forces successfully struck the command headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet in temporarily-occupied Sevastopol,” located on the southwest tip of Crimea, which Russia invaded and illegally annexed in 2014.
No further details of the strike were given, and it was not immediately clear what type of missiles were used, but the commander of Ukraine’s Air Force issued a statement that appeared to mock Russia’s claims that all of the missiles fired at the Sevastopol headquarters had been shot down by air defenses. The statement also referenced another strike earlier this week on a Russian base in the occupied city of Melitopol.
“We promised that ‘there will be more,’” Ukraine’s Air Force commander, Mykola Oleschuk, posted on social media. “So, while the occupiers are recovering in Melitopol, and air alarms are still sounding in Sevastopol, I thank the pilots of the Air Force once again!”
"All missiles were intercepted!" Oleschuk continued, with evident sarcasm. "I hope that next time Russian air defense will again not let us down. Sevastopol is the city of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine! Together — to victory!"
Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, tweeted that Russian forces should destroy their ships before Ukrainian forces arrive.
"Otherwise, the Russian Black Sea Fleet will be sliced up like a salami," Danilov wrote. "The process is painful, but the Armed Forces of Ukraine conduct precision strikes exclusively on military infrastructure."
While the Ukrainian claims could not be independently corroborated, video posted to social media on Friday, verified by Storyful and confirmed by The Washington Post, showed smoke rising from the Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters building. There was no confirmed information about casualties.
Damage to the building, however, would indicate a remarkable failure by Russia’s air defenses. Russia had maintained the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol since the collapse of the Soviet Union under a lease agreement. Russian military personnel stationed there are believed to have participated in the invasion of Crimea in 2014, which was carried out by soldiers, wearing uniforms without insignia, using Russian military vehicles with the license plates removed.
The fleet and its headquarters are obvious, high-profile targets for Ukraine, which has pledged to oust the Russian occupiers from all of its territory — including Crimea and areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions that have been under Russia’s control since 2014.
The assault on Sevastopol follows a number of attacks in Crimea and specifically on the Black Sea Fleet in recent weeks, including an apparent missile strike on a submarine and landing vessel in Sevastopol earlier this month. Another attack reportedly damaged a Russian air defense system.
Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Kremlin-installed governor of Crimea, confirmed on social media that a missile struck the Black Sea Fleet headquarters. He said that firefighters were trying to put out a fire in the building, and the shock wave from the blast “broke glass in 10 residential buildings in the city center.”
Russian news channels reported that six people were injured, but there was no official confirmation of that number. Russia’s Defense Ministry initially said that one person was killed, which was later changed to "missing."
Photos posted on social media showed the building with a large hole in its upper stories and smoke rising over the center of Sevastopol. Russian authorities said on Friday that they had also intercepted five missiles.
On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy continued a whirlwind trip to North America, visiting Canada, where he planned to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa and planned to address the parliament. Zelenskyy will also travel to Toronto to meet business leaders.
The visit follows his speeches at the high-level debate at the United Nations General Assembly and in the Security Council in New York earlier in the week, followed by meetings in Washington at the White House with President Biden, congressional leaders at the Capitol, and military commanders at the Pentagon.