Drone explosion hits Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – A small explosive carried by a makeshift drone detonated Sunday at the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in the Crimean peninsula, injuring six people and marking ceremonies honoring the Russian navy. have been cancelled, authorities said.

Meanwhile, one of Ukraine’s richest men, a grain merchant, was killed in what Ukrainian authorities say was a carefully targeted Russian missile attack on his home.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the drone explosion in a courtyard of the naval headquarters in the city of Sevastopol. But the seemingly improvised, small-scale nature of the attack raised the possibility that it was the work of Ukrainian insurgents trying to drive out Russian forces.

A Russian lawmaker from Crimea, Olga Kovitidi, told Russia’s state news agency RIA-Novosti that the drone was launched from Sevastopol itself. She said the incident was being treated as a terrorist act, the news agency said.

Crimea authorities have raised the terrorism threat level for the region to “yellow”, the second highest level.

Sevastopol, which was taken by Russia along with the rest of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, is located about 170 kilometers (100 miles) south of the Ukrainian mainland. Russian forces control much of the mainland along the Black Sea.

According to the press service of the Black Sea Fleet, the drone appeared to be homemade. It described the explosive as “low-power”. Sevastopol Mayor Mikhail Razvozhaev said six people were injured. Russian Navy Day observances were canceled in the city.

The Ukrainian navy and an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the reported drone strike underlined the weakness of Russia’s air defenses.

“Have the occupiers admitted the helplessness of their air defense system? Or their helplessness before the Crimean partisans?” said Oleksiy Arestovich on Telegram.

If such an attack by Ukraine is possible, he said, “the destruction of the Crimean Bridge in such situations no longer sounds unrealistic” — a reference to the span Russia built to connect its mainland to Crimea after its annexation.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, the mayor of the major port city of Mykolaiv, Vitaliy Kim, said one of Ukraine’s richest men, Oleksiy Vadatursky, and his wife, Raisa, were killed in shelling. Vadatursky ran a grain production and export company.

Another presidential adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, said Vadatursky was specifically targeted.

It was “not an accident, but a well thought out and organized premeditated murder. Vadatursky was one of the largest farmers in the country, a key figure in the region and a major employer. That a missile’s exact hit was not just in a house, but in a specific wing, the bedroom, leaves no doubt to direct and tune the attack,” he said.

Vadatursky’s agribusiness, Nibulon, includes a fleet of ships for shipping grain abroad.

One person has died in the Sumy region of northern Ukraine, near the Russian border, the regional government said. And three people died last day in attacks in the Donetsk region, which is partially controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

Podolyak said on Twitter that images of the prison where at least 53 Ukrainian POWs were killed in an explosion on Friday indicate that the blast came from inside the building in Olenivka, which is under Russian control.

Russian officials claim the building was attacked by Ukraine with the aim of silencing POWs who may be providing information about Ukrainian military operations. Ukraine blames Russia for the explosion, saying it was done to cover up the torture and execution of prisoners.

Satellite photos taken before and after show that a small, square building in the center of the prison complex was demolished, its roof in splinters.

Podolyak said those images and the lack of damage to neighboring buildings showed that the building was not attacked from the air or by artillery. He claimed the evidence was consistent with a thermobaric bomb, a powerful device sometimes called a vacuum bomb, fired inside.

The International Red Cross asked for an immediate visit to the prison to make sure the dozens of wounded POWs would receive proper treatment, but said on Sunday its request had yet to be granted. It said denying entry to the Red Cross would violate the Geneva Convention on the Rights of Prisoners of War.

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