The Washington Post

On military holiday, a note of defiance in attack on Russian naval outpost

After drone strike, Crimean city cancels Navy Day festivitie­s

- BY REIS THEBAULT, SAMMY WESTFALL AND ROBYN DIXON Liz Sly, David Walker, Kendra Nichols and Praveena Somasundar­am contribute­d to this report.

A drone strike on a key Russian naval outpost in the Crimean city of Sevastopol on Sunday sent a defiant message as Moscow celebrated one of its highest military holidays and boasted about new firepower it would soon deploy in its war with Kyiv, which has used Western weapons to try to turn the tide of the five-month conflict.

The attack hit the headquarte­rs of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, on the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, and it forced the cancellati­on of the city’s Navy Day festivitie­s. While Russia accused Ukraine of carrying out the attack, the Ukraine military said Russia had “invented” the claim. “We do not strike the territory of the Russian Federation,” it said on Facebook, adding that “Crimea is Ukraine.”

Damage to the building appeared minimal in photos posted to social media, but the strike’s timing carried significan­t symbolism on a day Russia uses to tout its military muscle.

More than 1,000 miles north, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed a Navy Day parade in Saint Petersburg and signed a sweeping new naval doctrine that outlined the Kremlin’s farreachin­g maritime ambitions. He also trumpeted new hypersonic missiles, which have been under developmen­t for years, and said they will be used in Ukraine in the coming months. The missiles, Putin claimed, “have no equivalent in the world.”

Putin’s comments came as Ukrainian forces have found increased success in wielding the advanced artillery they received from their Western allies in recent weeks, especially the rocket systems known as HIMARS. Analysts have said the HIMARS could allow Ukrainians to regain lost ground in places such as Kherson, a southern region where they have mounted a counteroff­ensive that is “gathering momentum.”

But leaders in Kyiv are also preparing for more civilian bloodshed in Russian-controlled areas. In his evening address Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a mandatory evacuation order for the hundreds of thousands of people still living in the eastern province of Donetsk, which is part of the Donbas region that Russia seeks to control. Donetsk has become the center of some of the war’s fiercest fighting, and Zelensky said his order is necessary to prevent the civilian death toll from climbing even higher.

“The sooner it is done, the more people leave Donetsk region now, the fewer people the Russian army will have time to kill,” Zelensky said.

The president pledged “full support, full assistance” for those evacuating, promising logistical and financial aid. Many residents, he said, have so far refused to leave.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of Donetsk who documents the war’s impact on the region in daily Telegram posts, shared new images of villages leveled over the weekend, writing: “The Russians destroy the civil infrastruc­ture of Donetsk region every day. We document every crime. They will be punished for everything!”

The deadliest strike to rock the region in recent weeks continues to be shrouded in uncertaint­y and finger-pointing. An attack on a detention center in Donetsk on Friday killed at least 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war, many of whom were part of the famed Azov Regiment and were captured after the Russian siege of Mariupol. Ukraine has held up defenders of the ruined port city as national heroes.

Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the strike, claiming it was carried out to silence the prisoners.

Russia said it invited members of the United Nations and the Internatio­nal Committee of the Red Cross to investigat­e the POW deaths. But the ICRC said Saturday that its day-old request to access the facility, located near the town of Olenivka, had not been approved.

“Granting ICRC access to POWS is an obligation of parties to conflict under the Geneva Convention­s,” it said in a post to Twitter.

The satellite imagery firm Maxar Technologi­es released a set of before-and-after photos of the prison facility that shows a building inside the compound, apparently the barracks, with one part reduced to rubble.

Analysts at the U.s.-based Institute for the Study of War wrote that they were “unable to confirm the nature or cause of the incident, although it remains more likely that Russian forces were responsibl­e.”

After the attack, Zelensky urged the United States to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, something the State Department has so far resisted.

Meanwhile, shelling continues across the country. Mykolaiv, a port city in Ukraine’s south, suffered one of its worst rocket attacks of the war on Sunday, with dozens of missiles hitting residentia­l buildings, schools and infrastruc­ture buildings, Ukrainian officials said.

The strikes also killed one of Ukraine’s richest businessme­n, Oleksiy Vadatursky, and his wife, regional governor Vitaliy Kim said. Vadatursky owned the Nibulon agricultur­al company, which built storage facilities for grain export. Zelensky said Vadatursky’s death was “a great loss for all of Ukraine.”

“It is exactly such people, such companies, our Ukrainian south, that have guaranteed the world’s food security,” Zelensky said. “It has always been so.”

Vadatursky was killed just as Ukraine was preparing to send out its first shipments of grain since Russia blockaded the country’s Black Sea ports and exacerbate­d a global food crisis. The shipment, officials said, could leave Odessa as soon as Monday.

“The sooner it is done, the more people leave Donetsk region now, the fewer people the Russian army will have time to kill.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, on issuing an evacuation for the eastern province of Donetsk

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