Ukraine says it hit two Russian military targets in occupied Crimea

KYIV (Reuters) -Ukraine said on Thursday its air force conducted a strike on a Russian command post near the occupied city of Sevastopol more than 200 km (120 miles) from Kyiv-held territory, and hit a military unit in a separate strike on the Crimean peninsula.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said its air defence units had downed a total of 36 Ukrainian drones over Crimea.

Ukraine’s Air Force Commander, Mykola Oleshchuk, posted a video from social media on the Telegram messaging app showing smoke rising from an explosion near Sevastopol, a Crimean port that serves as the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

“Thanks again to the air force pilots and everyone who planned the operation for perfect combat work,” he said.

He also published a screenshot of a social media post saying that a Russian military base in the city of Yevpatoria had been hit in a strike.

Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Moscow-installed governor of Sevastopol, described the attack as “the most massive in recent times”.

One person was hospitalized after a piece of shrapnel struck a house, he wrote on Telegram.

In a later posting, Razvozhayev said three residents of a home hit by falling debris had been evacuated. Further evacuations might be necessary as forensic experts examine part of a missile that fell near a village.

Reuters could not independently verify the reports.

In a report just after midnight, Russia’s Defence Ministry reported the downing of 36 drones in Crimea and one over the southern Russian region of Krasnodar.

The head administrative official in Saky, home to an air base north of Sevastopol, said several Ukrainian air attacks on the area had been repelled.

And Ukrainian bloggers and unofficial Telegram channels said Russian air defence units had been in action repelling Ukrainian attacks in the Kerch strait, on Crimea’s eastern coast, and in the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk.

The Russian defence ministry had earlier reported that its forces had destroyed 10 incoming missiles over the peninsula.

The Strategic Communications Department of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said a Russian command post had been hit near Sevastopol.

Ukraine has stepped up its attacks on the Crimean peninsula, which was seized and annexed by Moscow in 2014, seeking to destroy Russian military capabilities and force its fleet to pull back from the Black Sea.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said Kyiv has managed to seize the initiative from Russia in the area.

(Reporting by Yuliia Dysa, Mark Trevelyan, Alexander Marrow, Editing by Gareth Jones, Ron Popeski and David Gregorio)