Russia blames drone attack for Crimea fuel depot blaze

Huge fire broke out at a fuel depot in Sevastopol city on the peninsula where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based.

Smoke rising following an alleged drone attack in Sevastopol, Crimea, on April 29, 2023
Smoke rises following an alleged drone attack in Sevastopol, Crimea, on Saturday [Reuters]

A drone strike caused a fire at a fuel storage facility in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, sending a vast column of black smoke into the sky before it was extinguished, the city’s Moscow-installed governor has said.

Experts examined the site and “it became clear that only one drone was able to reach the oil reservoir”, Mikhail Razvozhaev said on the Telegram messaging app on Saturday.

He said no one had been injured in the fire and another drone was downed, its wreckage found on the shore near the terminal.

A Ukrainian military intelligence official said more than 10 tanks of oil products with a capacity of about 40,000 tonnes intended for use by Russia’s Black Sea Fleet were destroyed, RBC Ukraine reported.

Andriy Yusov did not claim that Ukraine was responsible for the explosion in comments reported by RBC, instead describing the blast as “God’s punishment” for a Russian strike on a Ukrainian city on Friday.

“This punishment will be long-lasting. In the near future, it is better for all residents of temporarily occupied Crimea not to be near military facilities and facilities that provide for the aggressor’s army,” RBC quoted Yusov as saying.

Earlier a spokesperson for Ukraine’s armed forces said he did not have any information to suggest Ukraine was responsible for the fire.

Sevastopol has come under repeated air attacks since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Kyiv has repeatedly declared its intention to retake the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014 to an international outcry.

After previous attacks on Crimea, Ukraine has stopped short of openly claiming responsibility but emphasised it has the right to strike any target in response to Russian aggression.

Razvozhayev reported on Monday the Russian military destroyed a Ukrainian surface sea drone that attempted to attack the harbour and a second drone had exploded. The blasts shattered windows in several apartment buildings but did not inflict any other damage, he said.

The fire in Sevastopol comes a day after a barrage of Russian missiles hit residential areas in Ukraine killing 25 people and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged allies to provide his troops with better air defences, including fighter jets.

“Air defence, a modern air force – without which effective air defence is impossible – artillery, armoured vehicles. Everything that is necessary to provide security to our cities, to our villages, both in the hinterland and on the front lines,” Zelenskyy listed in a video message on Friday night.

He condemned the attack in the city of Uman in the early hours of Friday that he said killed at least 23 people, including four children.

Ten residential buildings were hit by missiles in Uman, in the Cherkasy region, officials said. One block of flats was destroyed. Eighteen people were injured in the attack, nine of whom were being treated in hospital.

In the Dnipropetrovsk region, a woman and her two-year-old daughter were also killed by night-time Russian shelling.

“Russian evil can be stopped by weapons – our defenders are doing it. And it can be stopped by sanctions – global sanctions must be enhanced,” Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter earlier in the day.

The commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, on Friday gave the total number of missiles fired at Ukraine during the night as 23. Of these, 21 were shot down, along with two drones. The Ukrainian military said cruise missiles were also fired near the capital, Kyiv, with air defences downing 11 of them.

Shelling in the Russian-controlled eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk killed seven people and injured 19, local authorities reported on Friday.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies