A small explosive device carried by a makeshift drone hit the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea fleet on the Crimean Peninsula on Sunday, wounding six people, local authorities said, while Ukraine said a Russian missile attack killed one of its richest people, a grain merchant.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the drone attack in the port city of Sevastopol, which forced cancellation of ceremonies on Russia’s Navy Day holiday. But the seemingly improvised, small-scale nature of the attack raised the possibility it was the work of Ukrainian insurgents in the territory seized by Russia in 2014, The Associated Press reported.
The drone appeared to be homemade and the explosive device low-powered, the Black Sea Fleet’s press service said. Sevastopol is about 170 kilometers from the Ukrainian mainland, but it is unclear where the drone began its flight.
In light of the attack, an adviser to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy mocked the weakness of Russian air defenses.
“Did the occupiers admit the helplessness of their air defense system? Or their helplessness in front of the Crimean partisans?” Oleksiy Arestovich said on Telegram.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, the mayor of the major port city of Mykolaiv, Vitaliy Kim, said a Russian attack killed one of Ukraine’s wealthiest men, Oleksiy Vadatursky, and his wife, Raisa. Vadatursky headed a grain production and export business.
Another presidential adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, said Vadatursky was specifically targeted.
It “was not an accident, but a well-thought-out and organized premeditated murder,” Podolyak said. “Vadatursky was one of the largest farmers in the country, a key person in the region and a major employer. That the exact hit of a rocket was not just in a house, but in a specific wing, the bedroom, leaves no doubt about aiming and adjusting the strike.”
Vadatursky’s agribusiness, Nibulon, includes a fleet of ships for sending grain abroad. Ukraine is hoping to resume overseas grain exports after reaching an agreement with Russia that it would not block Black Sea passage of cargo ships.
The first ship loaded with Ukrainian grain is set to sail from the Black Sea port of Chornomorsk, perhaps as early as Monday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin marked the annual Navy Day parade in St. Petersburg with an announcement that the Russian Navy is set to receive what he described as “formidable” hypersonic Zircon cruise missiles in the next few months.
Hypersonic weapons fly at speeds of at least Mach 5 and are highly maneuverable and able to change course during flight. They are different from ballistic missiles, which can also travel at hypersonic speeds of at least Mach 5 but have set trajectories and limited maneuverability.
The ability to launch highly maneuverable weapons at hypersonic speeds gives any country a considerable advantage, because such weapons can evade just about any defense system currently in use.
General John Hyten, the former vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an audience in Washington in January 2020, “It doesn’t matter what the threat is. If you can’t see it, you can’t defend against it.”
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy called on Saturday for the evacuation of eastern Donetsk province, the region that has seen the fiercest fighting as Russia seeks to fully control it.
Hundreds of thousands of people, including children and the elderly, remain in combat zones of the larger Donbas region, which includes Donetsk and Luhansk. It is also the region where Ukrainian prisoners of war died in a missile attack last week.
Zelenskyy made the announcement Saturday during his nightly video address to his nation.
“The more people leave [the] Donetsk region now, the fewer people the Russian army will have time to kill,” he said, adding that residents who left would be given compensation, he said according to Reuters.
Zelenskyy promised logistical support to persuade people to leave.
“Many refuse to leave but it still needs to be done,” the president said. “If you have the opportunity, please talk to those who still remain in the combat zones in Donbas. Please convince them that it is necessary to leave.”
Earlier Saturday, Ukraine demanded that Russia be held accountable for a missile attack that killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war at a Russian-operated detention facility in eastern Ukraine.
The Ukrainian government on Saturday called on the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross to immediately investigate Friday’s attack. The ICRC said Saturday that it still had not been granted access to the site.
With international outrage building over the missile strike, the United Nations pledged support to help investigate the prison attack.
“In relation to the recent tragedy at the prison in Olenivka, we stand ready to send a group of experts able to conduct an investigation, requiring the consent of the parties,” said Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for the U.N. secretary-general in a statement released Saturday.
Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of carrying out the attack. Neither claim could be independently verified. So far, no international aid organizations have been granted access to the bombed-out site.
In a statement Sunday, Russia said it has invited United Nations and Red Cross experts to investigate the deaths at the prison, according to Reuters.