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Friday, December 1, 2023

Ukraine: 34 casualties, including fleet commander, in Crimea navy HQ attack

Last week’s missile strike on Russia’s Crimean navy headquarters, which claimed the lives of 34 officers, including the fleet commander, was announced by Ukraine on Monday. However, Ukraine did not provide any evidence to support its claim.

According to Ukraine’s Special Operation Forces, the strike on the main building of the Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol wounded 105 people. These claims cannot be independently verified and differ significantly from Russia’s official reports.

Initially, Russia’s military had reported one serviceman killed in the attack but later stated the individual was missing, offering no further updates.

Since the start of the Ukraine crisis 20 months ago, the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014, has been a frequent target, serving as a crucial hub supporting the invasion.

In recent weeks, Ukraine has increasingly targeted naval facilities in Crimea while making slow progress in its summer counteroffensive in the east and south. Another barrage followed the attack on Friday.

The new casualty figures represent a significant increase from what Ukraine’s intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, previously stated, with at least nine killed and 16 wounded, leaving the building smoldering. He had also mentioned the severe condition of Russian General Alexander Romanchuk, commanding forces along the key southeastern front line.

The report suggests that Adm. Viktor Sokolov, the fleet’s chief, was also killed, although no supporting evidence was provided. While he was not named in the Special Operation Forces statement, Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs, posted his name and photo on social media.

Ukraine’s military offered more details about Friday’s attack, revealing that the air force conducted 12 strikes on the Black Sea Fleet headquarters, targeting areas with a concentration of personnel, military equipment, and weapons. They reported hitting two anti-aircraft missile systems and four Russian artillery units.

As casualty figures emerged, a Russian drone and missile strike near Odesa caused damage to infrastructure, including a grain silo and an abandoned hotel, resulting in one person being injured in the Black Sea port city. Additionally, Ukrainian officials reported that in the past day, Russian attacks in other parts of Ukraine had killed six civilians and wounded 13.

Ukraine’s air force claimed to have successfully intercepted all Russian drones launched overnight, although one of the 12 Kalibr missiles and two P-800 Oniks cruise missiles reportedly penetrated the air defenses.

Russia has consistently targeted port and grain storage facilities in Odesa after withdrawing from a wartime agreement that allowed Ukrainian grain exports to nations facing food shortages. These attacks have resulted in the destruction of silos, warehouses, oil terminals, and other critical infrastructure necessary for storage and shipping.

The Russian Defence Ministry asserted that long-range missiles and drones were employed to strike facilities it alleged had harbored foreign mercenaries and trained saboteurs. However, the ministry did not specify locations or provide additional details to substantiate its claims, also noting the downing of several Ukrainian drones.

These attacks occurred as independent UN-backed human rights experts uncovered new evidence of war crimes perpetrated by Russian forces. Meanwhile, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the arrival of the first Abrams tanks sent by the US, which could play a role in their ongoing slow-moving summer counteroffensive.

The UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine acknowledged the presence of crimes committed by both sides in the conflict, but highlighted a significantly higher number attributed to Russian forces. These included instances of torture, some resulting in fatalities, and the rape of women as old as 83. The commission also stated that it was investigating allegations of genocide by Russian forces.

Zelenskyy expressed his gratitude to allies on Telegram for their support and announced the anticipated arrival of the tanks. Although he did not specify the number of tanks received, the US had previously indicated sending 31 tanks.

In separate clashes, Russian forces carried out bombings and launched six heavy artillery strikes in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine, resulting in the destruction of a school, a factory, and damage to residential buildings. Three of the casualties reported by the Ukrainian president’s office occurred in the region, including three individuals killed and two others injured by bombs that struck the city of Beryslav. Additionally, a man lost his life in the nearby village of Lvove.

In eastern Ukraine, Russian forces targeted residential areas in ten cities and villages within the Donetsk region, resulting in two fatalities in the village of Zarichne, according to the presidential office.

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