Ukraine war: Kyiv claims naval victory as Russia targets church

Ukraine has claimed a rare naval victory over Russia in the ongoing war, as Moscow escalates its missile attacks on civilian and religious targets.

Ukraine says it damaged Russian ship in Black Sea

Ukraine’s defence ministry said on Thursday that it had successfully attacked a Russian naval base in Novorossiysk, a port city on the Black Sea coast, with two maritime drones. The ministry said the drones hit a patrol boat and a landing craft, causing significant damage and putting them out of action.

The ministry also released a video showing the drones launching missiles at the Russian vessels, followed by explosions and smoke. The video was verified by independent experts as authentic.

Russia confirmed the attack, but downplayed its impact. The Russian defence ministry said the drones were detected and destroyed by fire from the standard weapons of Russian ships guarding the outer harbour of the naval base. It said no casualties or serious damage were reported.

The attack was the first of its kind by Ukraine, which has been struggling to counter Russia’s superior naval and air power in the war. Ukraine has been developing and acquiring new weapons, including drones, rockets and anti-ship missiles, to boost its defence capabilities.

Russia strikes cathedral and hospital in Kherson

Meanwhile, Russia continued its extensive missile attacks against Ukraine’s port and grain infrastructure, destroying a historic cathedral and a hospital in Kherson, a city in southern Ukraine near Crimea.

The Ukrainian interior ministry said four people were killed and 19 wounded in the overnight attack on Wednesday. The top floor of an apartment block was also almost completely destroyed.

The cathedral of St. Catherine, a 19th-century Orthodox church that was a cultural landmark of Kherson, was hit by two missiles and reduced to rubble. The church was reportedly being used as a shelter for displaced people from Crimea and Donbas.

Russia claimed its targets in Kherson were being used to prepare “terrorist acts” and blamed the attack on Ukrainian air defences. However, Ukraine denied any involvement and accused Russia of deliberately targeting civilians and religious sites.

Kyiv ‘dominates’ frontline in Donetsk region

On the ground, Ukraine said it had made progress on one of the frontlines in the Donetsk region in south-east Ukraine, as fighting continues around the eastern city of Bakhmut.

Ukraine’s ground forces commander Gen Oleksandr Syrskyi said Ukrainian troops had taken control of the village of Staromykhailivka, about 15 km (9 miles) west of Donetsk, after several days of intense shelling.

He said the village was strategically important because it allowed Ukraine to “dominate” the frontline and prevent Russia from advancing further west. He also said Ukraine had repelled several Russian counter-attacks in the area.

Russia denied losing any territory in Donetsk and accused Ukraine of violating the ceasefire agreement. Russian-backed militia leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko said Ukraine had suffered heavy losses and failed to break through Russia’s defences.

The war in Ukraine began in 2014, after Russia annexed Crimea and supported separatist rebels in Donbas. More than 13,000 people have been killed and millions displaced by the conflict. Despite several attempts to negotiate a peaceful solution, the war has escalated since February 2022, when Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

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