MOSCOW: The Russian army accused Ukraine on Saturday (Oct 29) of a “massive” drone attack on its Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, while Britain bluntly rejected Moscow’s claims its specialists were involved.
Sevastopol in Moscow-annexed Crimea, which has been targeted several times in recent months, serves as the headquarters for the fleet and a logistical hub for operations in Ukraine.
The Russian army claimed to have “destroyed” nine aerial drones and seven maritime ones, in an attack on the port early Saturday.
Moscow’s forces alleged British “specialists”, whom they said were based in the southern Ukrainian city of Ochakiv, had helped prepare and train Kyiv to carry out the strike.
In a further singling out of the UK – which Moscow sees as one of the most unfriendly Western countries – Moscow said the same British unit was involved in explosions on the Nord Stream gas pipelines last month.
Britain strongly rebutted both claims, saying “the Russian Ministry of Defence is resorting to peddling false claims of an epic scale”.
The British defence ministry said that this “invented story says more about arguments going on inside the Russian Government than it does about the West”.
Moscow’s military said ships targeted at their Crimean base were involved in a UN-brokered deal to allow the export of Ukrainian grain.
Russia had recently criticised the deal, saying its own grain exports have suffered due to Western sanctions.
Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Moscow-installed governor of Sevastopol, said Saturday’s drone attack was the “most massive” the peninsula had seen.
The city’s services were on “alert”, but he claimed no “civilian infrastructure” had been damaged.
He called on residents of the city not to post videos of the incident on social media.
“It should be clear to everyone that such information is much needed for Ukrainian Nazis in order to understand how the defence of our city is built,” he said.
City authorities said that the harbour was “temporarily” closed to boats and ferries and urged people “not to panic”.