The latest Ukrainian success against Russian naval targets in the occupied peninsula was confirmed by the city's Russian-appointed governor, Mikhail Razvozhayev, who urged locals to avoid the city center in a post on the Telegram messaging app.
Videos posted on social media showed the naval HQ in flames and reports suggested a large number of ambulances had been sent to the scene.
Ukraine has attacked and partially destroyed the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol today as the Ukrainian air campaign in Russian-occupied Crimea continues to escalate pic.twitter.com/JBDs7NF0nU
— Business Ukraine mag (@Biz_Ukraine_Mag) September 22, 2023
The hit on what should be the best-protected building in Crimea was further proof of Ukraine’s recent progress in degrading Russia’s air defense capability over the Black Sea—ending Russian air dominance not just over the sea itself but much of southern Ukraine. It came as a ship carrying more than 17,000 tonnes of grain left the Ukraine port of Chornomorsk as part of Kyiv’s campaign to reopen trade routes despite a Russian blockade.
President Volodymyr Zelensky was in Washington, D.C. Thursday pressing Congress to approve billions more in military and financial support to continue to defend his country from Russia.
Ukraine is thought to have used British Storm Shadow cruise missiles and naval drones to attack a Sevastopol shipyard last week, destroying a Kilo-class submarine and a landing ship in the most significant strike against a Russian naval target since the sinking of the cruiser Moskva—flagship of the Black Sea Fleet—in April 2022.
But the attack on the Black Sea Fleet HQ, also thought to have involved a Storm Shadow, will have a symbolic importance likely to exceed its purely military significance. Founded by the Russian nobleman and military leader Prince Potemkin in the late 18th century, the fleet became the lynchpin of Russian military power in the Black Sea and Mediterranean over the following decades.
Defeat in the Russo-Japanese war in 1905 saw a sailors’ revolt on the battleship Potemkin later credited with encouraging the spirit of rebellion that led to the Russian revolution of 1917.
Most importantly, however, it was the historic presence of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol that was used a pretext by Vladimir Putin when he ordered the annexation of Ukraine in 2014 and brought the fleet under direct Russian control. Friday’s attack will help weaken Putin's grip on the Crimea.