Ukraine carried out a fiery missile strike Friday on the main headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and one serviceman was missing, the Russian Defense Ministry said. Photos and video showed large plumes of smoke over the building in Sevastopol in annexed Crimea.
The ministry initially said one servicemember was killed but then issued a subsequent statement saying he was missing.
The Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev, said no one was injured outside the burning headquarters, and he didn’t provide information on other casualties. Firefighters battled the blaze, and more emergency forces were being brought in, an indication the fire could be massive.
Sevastopol residents said they heard explosions in the skies and saw smoke, Russian news outlets reported. Images circulated in Ukrainian Telegram channels showed clouds of smoke over the seafront. The Associated Press could not immediately verify the videos.
A stream of ambulances arrived at the fleet’s headquarters, and shrapnel was scattered hundreds of meters (yards) around, the Tass news agency reported.
The Defense Ministry said five missiles were shot down by Russian air defense systems responding to the attack on Sevastopol. It was not immediately clear if the headquarters was hit in a direct strike or by debris from an intercepted missile.
Oleg Kryuchkov, an official with the Crimean administration, said one cruise missile downed near Bakhchysarai, about 30 kilometers (18.5 miles) inland, sparked a grass fire.
Razvozhayev said civilian infrastructure wasn’t damaged but did not mention the impact on the fleet headquarters.
He initially warned Sevastopol residents that another attack was possible and urged them not to leave buildings or go to the city center. He later said there was no longer any threat of an air strike but reiterated calls not to go to the central part of the city, saying roads were closed and and unspecified “special efforts” were underway.
Police asked residents to leave the central part of the city, Tass said.
Ukrainian officials, who have claimed responsibility for a series of other recent attacks on Crimea, didn’t immediately announce Kyiv launched the strike.
The attack comes a day after Russian missiles and artillery pounded cities across Ukraine, killing at least five people as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with President Joe Biden and congressional leaders in Washington with an additional $24 billion aid package being considered.
The port city of Sevastopol serves as the main base for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. A Ukrainian drone hit the fleet’s headquarters in July 2022, injuring six people and causing minor damage to the building.
Last week, the Russian-installed authorities in the city accused Ukraine of attacking a strategic shipyard in the city, damaging two ships undergoing repairs and causing a fire at the facility.
The Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 in an act that most of the world considered illegal, has been a frequent target since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than 18 months ago. The attack on the shipyard was the biggest in weeks.
In other developments, ongoing shelling in the southern Kherson region killed one man and injured another, said regional Gov. Oleksandr Prokudin.
“Kherson has been restless since the morning,” he said on Telegram.
Russian shelling sparked fires in a residential building and a garage.
In Kharkiv, regional Gov. Oleh Synyehubov said over 14 settlements came under attack. A house was damaged and a fire broke out in Vovchansk, in Chuguyiv district. There were no casualties, the governor said.