Kyiv, Ukraine (AFP) – A small explosive device carried by a drone exploded Sunday at the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, injuring six people and canceling a ceremony honoring the Russian Navy, authorities said.
Meanwhile, one of Ukraine’s richest men, a grain merchant, was killed in what Ukrainian authorities described as a carefully targeted Russian missile strike on his home.
No one has claimed responsibility for the explosion of a drone in the courtyard of the Naval Command headquarters in the city of Sevastopol. But the seemingly improvised and small nature of the attack raised the possibility that the attack was the work of Ukrainian rebels trying to dislodge Russian forces.
Olga Kovitedi, a Russian lawmaker from Crimea, told the Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti that the drone took off from Sevastopol itself. The agency said the incident was being treated as an act of terrorism.
The Crimean authorities raised the terrorist threat level for the region to the “yellow” level, the second highest.
Sevastopol, which Russia captured along with the rest of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, is located about 170 kilometers (100 mi) south of mainland Ukraine. Russian forces control much of the mainland along the Black Sea.
The press service of the Black Sea Fleet said that the drone appeared to be homemade. It described the explosive device as “low energy”. Six people were injured, Mikhail Razvojev, the mayor of Sevastopol, said. The celebration of the Russian Navy Day holiday in the city has been cancelled.
The Ukrainian Navy and Presidential Adviser Volodymyr Zelensky said the news of the drone attack confirmed the weakness of Russia’s air defenses.
“Did the occupiers admit the impotence of their air defense system? Or their impotence in front of the Crimean partisans?” Oleksiy Aristovich said on Telegram.
If such an attack was possible by Ukraine, he said, “the destruction of the Crimean bridge in such cases is no longer unrealistic” – referring to the extension that Russia built to connect its main territory with Crimea after the annexation.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, the mayor of Mykolaiv, Vitaly Kim, said the bombing claimed the lives of one of Ukraine’s richest men, Oleksiy Vadatorsky, and his wife, Raisa. Vadatursky headed grain production and export business.
Another presidential adviser, Mikhailo Podolak, said Vdatorsky was specifically targeted.
“It was not an accident, but a well-thought-out, well-organized and premeditated murder. Vadatursky was one of the largest farmers in the country, a key figure in the region and a major business owner. The precise strike of a missile was not only in a house, but in a particular ward, a room,” he said. Sleeping, leaves no doubt about aiming and adjusting the blow.
Vadatursky’s agricultural business, Nibulon, includes a fleet of ships to send grain abroad.
The regional administration in the Sumy region of northern Ukraine, near the Russian border, said the bombing had killed one person. The region’s governor, Pavlo Kirilenko, said three people were killed in attacks last day in the Donetsk region, which is partly under the control of Russian-backed separatist forces.
Podolyak said on Twitter that photos of the prison where at least 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war were killed in an explosion on Friday indicated that the explosion came from inside the building in Russian-controlled Olinivka.
Russian officials claimed that the building was attacked by Ukraine with the aim of silencing prisoners of war who might provide information about Ukrainian military operations. Ukraine blamed Russia for the blast, saying it was done to cover up the torture and execution of prisoners.
Satellite images taken before and after show that a small square-shaped building in the center of the prison complex was demolished and its roof shrapnel.
These images and no damage to nearby structures showed that the building was not attacked from the air or by artillery, Podolyak said. He claimed the evidence was consistent with a thermobaric bomb, a powerful device sometimes called a vacuum bomb, detonated indoors.
The International Red Cross requested an immediate visit to the prison to ensure that dozens of wounded prisoners of war received proper treatment, but said on Sunday that its request had not yet been approved. She said denying access to the Red Cross violates the Geneva Convention on the Rights of Prisoners of War.
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