A Ukrainian attack drone blasted a Russian ammunition depot in central Crimea on Saturday, sparking a major explosion.
Sergey Aksyonov, the Kremlin-appointed head of Crimea, said that there have been no immediate reports of casualties, but that authorities were evacuating civilians within a five-kilometre radius.
The Ukrainian military seemed to confirm it had launched the drone strike, after it claimed that it had destroyed an oil depot and Russian arms warehouses in the Krasnohvardiiske region of Crimea, the Ukrainian territory that Moscow illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Local news channels posted videos showing plumes of smoke above settlements, as explosions rumble in the background.
The drone attack comes just as Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has said that the country’s counteroffensive to push back Russian forces in occupied Ukraine is set to “gain pace”.
The much-anticipated effort began later than Kyiv had expected due to a lack of sufficient ammunition supplies from allied countries.
But Mr Zelensky said yesterday that the now weeks-old counteroffensive is about to shift in momentum, with Ukraine set to receive more weapons.
He called on his allies to provide the war-torn country with more long-range missiles as well as advanced fighter jets, as he addressed international leaders at the Aspen Security Forum.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan told the audience in Colorado that the results of Ukraine’s military effort would only become clear once Kyiv had fully committed its forces.
“It is at that moment when they make that commitment that we will really see what the results of the counter-offensive will be,” Mr Sullivan said.
Already, recent days have seen Ukraine flexing its munitions capabilities, as videos have revealed the first confirmed use of US cluster bombs by Ukraine
The US had announced previously that it would send the cluster bombs to Ukraine as a part of an $800m package.
More than 100 countries have banned the use of these bombs as some of the bomblets may not explode and turn instead into mines on the battlefield, remaining a threat for a long time to come.
The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region said on Saturday that Ukraine fired cluster munitions at a village near the Ukrainian border on Friday, but that there were no casualties or damage.
Also on Saturday, Ukrainian authorities reported that overnight attacks from Russia on 11 regions had killed at least eight civilians and wounded others.
At least four people, including a married couple, were killed as Russian forces on Friday night shelled the settlement of Niu-York, said the regional prosecutor’s office in the eastern Donetsk region.
On Saturday morning, Ukraine’s interior ministry said that two civilians died as Russian forces Friday struck Kostiantynivka, a city in the Donetsk region, from multiple rocket launchers.
In a post on its official Telegram channel, the ministry said that another civilian was wounded in the same attack, which also destroyed 20 private homes, cars and a gas pipeline.
Two more people were also killed near the northern city of Chernihiv, some 100km from the Russian border, as Russian cruise missiles destroyed the local cultural centre and damaged apartment blocks, the regional military administration reported on Saturday morning.
Three civilians were wounded as Russian troops overnight shelled a town neighbouring the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, local governer Serhiy Lysak reported.
Source : Independent