by Susie Blain
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A small explosive device carried by a makeshift drone exploded Sunday at the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet on the Crimean peninsula, injuring six people and honoring Russia’s navy. The gatherings were cancelled, officials said.
Meanwhile, one of Ukraine’s richest men, a grain merchant, was killed by Ukrainian authorities in a carefully targeted Russian missile attack on his home.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the drone blast at Naval Headquarters. But the petty nature of the attack raised the possibility that it was the work of Ukrainian rebels trying to drive out Russian forces.
The explosion took place in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014. The observance of the Navy Day holiday of Russia in Sevastopol was cancelled.
The press service of the Black Sea Fleet said that the drone appears to be homemade. It described the explosive device as “low power”. Sevastopol Mayor Mikhail Razvozev said six people were injured.
It was not clear where the drone started its flight. Sevastopol is approximately 170 kilometers (100 mi) south of the Ukrainian mainland, and Russian forces control the mainland area along the Black Sea.
In the wake of the explosion, Crimean authorities raised the terrorism threat level for the region to “yellow”, the second highest level. However, a Russian lawmaker from Crimea, Olga Kovitidi, told Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti that conclusions about the attack could not be drawn until the investigation was completed.
Ukraine’s navy and an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky said the reported drone strike underscored the weakness of Russian air defence.
“Did the occupiers acknowledge the helplessness of their air defense system? Or their helplessness in the face of the Crimean partisans?” said Oleksiy Erestovich on Telegram.
If such an attack by Ukraine is possible, he said, “the destruction of the Crimean bridge in such conditions no longer seems unrealistic”—a reference to the period Russia created to connect its mainland with Crimea.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, the mayor of the major port city of Mykolaiv, Vitaly Kim, said the shelling killed one of Ukraine’s richest men, Oleksiy Vadatursky, and his wife Raisa. Vadatursky headed the grain production and export business.
Another presidential adviser, Mykhailo Podolik, said Vadatursky was specifically targeted.
It was “not an accident, but a well-intentioned and well-planned murder. Wadatursky was one of the largest farmers in the country, a prominent figure in the region and a major employer. The precise strike of the rocket was not just in a house, but in a specific wing, the bedroom, leaving no doubt about targeting and adjusting the strike,” he said.
Vadatursky’s agribusiness, Nibulon, involved a fleet of ships to send grain overseas.
One person was killed in shelling in the Sumy region in Ukraine’s north, near the Russian border, the regional administration said. And three people were killed in attacks in the past in the Donetsk region, which is partly controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces, regional government Pavlo Kirilenko said.
Podolik said on Twitter that photos of the prison where at least 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war were killed in an explosion on Friday showed that the blast happened from inside the building in Olenivka, which is under Russian control.
Russian officials have claimed that Ukraine’s attack on the building was aimed at silencing POWs who may have been providing information about Ukrainian military operations. Ukraine has blamed Russia for the blast.
Satellite photos taken before and after show that a small, square building in the middle of the prison complex was demolished, with its roof splintering.
Podolik said those images and the lack of damage to adjacent structures suggest the building was not attacked by air or artillery. He argued that the evidence was consistent with a thermobaric bomb, a powerful device sometimes called a vacuum bomb, which is set inside.
The International Red Cross called on the prison to immediately ensure that wounded POWs receive proper treatment, but said on Sunday that its request had not yet been accepted. It said denying access to the Red Cross would be in violation of the Geneva Convention on the Rights of Prisoners of War.
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