Ukraine, Russia trade claims after blast rocks Crimean town


KYIV, Ukraine – Russian and Ukrainian officials on Tuesday gave conflicting accounts of what was a brazen attack on Russian cruise missiles being transported by train in the occupied Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

A Ukrainian military spokesman indicated that Kiev was behind an explosion late Monday that reportedly destroyed several Kalibr cruise missiles near the northern Crimean town of Zhankoy, while denying direct responsibility. refrain from

Natalia Khmenyuk, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command, called the attack a signal to Russia to abandon the Black Sea peninsula it illegally seized from Ukraine in 2014.

Speaking on Ukrainian TV, Hymenyuk pointed to the importance of Zahankoy as a railway junction and said “at the moment, the way forward (for Russian forces in Crimea) is clear – they have to go by rail already.” Need to get out.”

A vague statement from Ukraine’s military intelligence agency on Monday said several of the rail-borne missiles had been destroyed and were intended for submarine launch, without saying that Ukraine was responsible. or what weapon was used. However, the agency said Kiev was behind the blast, saying it “furthers Russia’s process of demilitarization, and prepares to de-occupy the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.” “

Officials stationed in Moscow in Crimea offered a different version of events on Tuesday, saying Ukrainian drones attacked civilian facilities in Zahankoy.

The Kremlin-appointed head of Crimea, Sergei Aksenov, said one civilian was wounded in the attack but “there was no serious damage.”

Oleg Krychkov, an adviser to Aksenov, rejected Ukraine’s claims, saying Ukrainian drones had targeted residential areas rather than railways. The attack damaged power lines, a private house, a store and a college building, said Igor Ivan, head of the local administration in Zhankoi.

Unconfirmed reports on social media late Monday claimed that Russia’s anti-aircraft defenses shot down multiple drones over Crimea. None of the statements could be independently verified.

During the current war, reports of attacks on Russian military bases and other infrastructure in Crimea have surfaced, with Ukraine rarely outright claiming responsibility but hailing the incidents.

In August, A Russian air base was rocked by loud explosions In western Crimea, Ukraine later said nine warplanes were destroyed. Satellite images showed at least seven fighter jets were blown up and others were possibly damaged. Ukrainian officials initially flatly refused to take credit, scoffing at Russia’s explanation that a careless smoker could have caused the munitions to catch fire and explode at the Saki base. Unusually, Ukraine’s top military officer announced weeks later that he had ordered the strikes.

Russian-appointed officials have previously reported repeated Ukrainian drone strikes on Crimea, most of which targeted the port of Sevastopol, which hosts a key Russian naval base there.

The events in Crimea, as well as drone strikes away from the war fronts on Russian soil, have exposed major weaknesses in Moscow’s defenses and embarrassed Russian President Vladimir Putin, who believed that Ukraine The attack will be quick and easy.

– Ukraine’s human rights chief said on Tuesday that Kiev has returned 15 more Ukrainian children deported by Russian forces from the south and northeast of the country, where Moscow seized large swathes of territory at the start of the war. had done

Dmytro Lubinets spoke days after the International Criminal Court. An arrest warrant was issued. for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of personal responsibility for the kidnapping of children from Ukraine. According to Ukrainian government figures, more than 16,000 minors were forcibly taken to Russia and Russian-occupied territories, some of whom were put up for adoption by Russian families, and only 308 have been returned so far. has gone

— At least three civilians were killed and 10 wounded by Russian shelling in the past 24 hours, the Ukrainian presidential office reported. It said Russia shelled the southern city of Khorsun and its suburbs more than 60 times during that period, killing one person and wounding seven others in Kherson province.

Fierce fighting continues in the eastern Donetsk region, where Russia is pushing to encircle the city of Bakhmut in the face of Ukrainian defenses. Local governor Petro Kirilenko said on Ukrainian TV on Tuesday that one civilian was killed and another wounded by Russian shelling there yesterday. Kyrylenko added that one more civilian was killed and two wounded in Avdiivka, another routinely coming under heavy fire.

Ukrainian officials have reported civilian casualties in Bakhmut on an almost daily basis since Moscow’s push to capture the city began months ago. Of Bakhmut’s pre-war population of around 70,000, only a few thousand remain as the once-proud mining center is reduced to rubble.

The head of Ukraine’s ground forces said on Tuesday that Ukrainian defenders of Bakhmut had thwarted Russian attempts to advance into the city center.

“The defense of Bekhmut continues,” Col. Gen. Oleksandr Sersky said in a Twitter update.

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