KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Russia thwarted an attack by 20 Ukrainian drones targeting Moscow-annexed Crimea overnight, the Russian Defense Ministry said Saturday.
Fourteen drones were shot down by Russian air defenses and a further six were jammed electronically, the ministry said in a Telegram post. No casualties or damage were reported. Kyiv officials neither confirmed nor denied Ukraine’s involvement in the attacks.
As videos circulated on Russian social media Saturday appearing to show smoke rising above a bridge linking Russia to Crimea, the annexed peninsula’s Moscow-appointed governor, Sergei Aksyonov, reported that Russian air defense had also prevented an attack there by shooting down two Ukrainian missiles.
The bridge was not damaged, he said, although traffic was briefly halted. An adviser to Aksyonov, Oleg Kryuchkov, claimed that “a smoke screen was put up by special services.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry “strongly condemned” the attempted attack on the Crimean bridge. The ministry said in a statement that such “barbaric actions” by the Armed Forces of Ukraine “will not go unanswered.”
Shortly after reporting the downing of the two Ukrainian missiles, Aksyonov said Russian air defense had shot down another missile over the Kerch Strait.
The bridge connecting Crimea and Russia across the Kerch Strait carries heavy significance for Moscow, both logistically and psychologically, as a key artery for military and civilian supplies and as an assertion of Kremlin control of the peninsula it illegally annexed in 2014.
Last week, a Ukrainian sea drone hit a Russian tanker near the bridge, while an attack on the bridge last month killed a couple and seriously wounded their daughter, leaving a span of the roadway hanging perilously. The damage appeared to be less severe than that caused by an assault in October, but it again highlighted the bridge’s vulnerability.
The attempted drone and missile attacks follow three consecutive days of drone attacks on the Russian capital, Moscow. Firing drones at Russia, after more than 17 months of war, has little apparent military value for Ukraine but the strategy has served to unsettle Russians and bring home to them the conflict’s consequences.
Drone attacks have increased in recent weeks both on Moscow and on Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 – a move that most of the world considered illegal.
Elsewhere, Russia claimed Saturday it had regained control of the village of Urozhaine in Ukraine’s easternmost Luhansk region in an overnight counterattack.
A 73-year-old woman was killed early Saturday morning in Russian shelling of Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region, according to regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov.
Ukrainian internal affairs minister Ihor Klymenko said a police officer was killed and 12 people wounded when a guided Russian aerial bomb hit the city of Orikhiv in Ukraine’s partially occupied southern Zaporizhzhia region. Four of the wounded were also police officers, he said.
Local officials said explosions rang out Saturday morning in the central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s hometown, but that there were no known casualties.
On Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, the city of Odesa opened several beaches for the first time since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.
Odesa Gov. Oleh Kiper said that six beaches were open, but he stressed that accessing beaches during air raid alerts was forbidden.
The strategic port and key hub for exporting grain has been subject to repeated missile and drone attacks – particularly since Moscow canceled a landmark grain deal last month amid Kyiv’s grinding efforts to retake its occupied territories – while Russian mines have regularly washed up on the city’s beaches.
Associated Press writer Elise Morton in London contributed to this report.
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