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Ukraine strike damages 2 ships

Vessels under repair hit in Russian-occupied Crimea, 24 hurt by DASHA LITVINOVA and ILLIA NOVIKOV The Associated Press | September 14, 2023 at 4:45 a.m.
Trucks burn in Odesa, Ukraine, on early Wednesday following Russian attacks. 3 civilians were killed and 14 hurt in strikes across the country, according to Ukrainian authorities. (AP/Odesa Regional Prosecutor’s Office)

KYIV, Ukraine -- A Ukrainian attack on a strategic shipyard early Wednesday in Russian-annexed Crimea wounded 24 people, damaged two ships undergoing repairs and caused a fire at the facility, Russian authorities reported.

The attack in the port city of Sevastopol, which serves as the main base for Russia's Black Sea Fleet, took place as Moscow offensives killed at least three civilians and injured 14 across Ukraine, the Ukrainian president's office said.

A pre-dawn drone onslaught in southern Ukraine's Odesa region damaged port and civilian infrastructure in the region's Izmail district, about 220 miles across the Black Sea from Sevastopol, and wounded seven people, three seriously, Gov. Oleh Kiper said.

Russian attacks on residential areas in 10 cities and villages in the Donetsk region killed three people and wounded three. Fighting in the Zaporizhzhia region injured one resident in Orikhiv, while shelling in southern Kherson damaged homes and a kindergarten, the government said.

The skirmishes occurred as Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a summit that the U.S. has warned could lead to a deal to supply arms to Moscow's depleted troops in Ukraine. Kim offered his full support for Russia's "just" fight and said the two reached an agreement to deepen their "strategic and tactical cooperation and solidarity in the struggle to defend sovereign rights and security."

The Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 in an act that most of the world considered illegal, has been a frequent target since Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than 18 months ago.

Last month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed to do all he could to bring back Crimea and has urged international allies to support the effort.

On Monday, Ukraine claimed it had recaptured strategic gas and oil drilling platforms in the Black Sea that Russia seized in 2015. Russia had used the platforms for electronic warfare equipment and to launch helicopters, and Ukraine said getting control of them would help it regain Crimea.

Wednesday's attack on the Sevastopol Shipyard appeared to be one of the biggest in recent weeks. Russia's Defense Ministry said Ukraine launched 10 cruise missiles at the shipyard and three sea drones at Russian ships in the Black Sea.

The shipyard is of strategic importance to Russia because vessels in its Black Sea fleet are repaired there.

Seven missiles were shot down, and all the sea drones were destroyed, the Russian military said, but some of the missiles damaged two ships that were being repaired at the shipyard.

Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Moscow-appointed governor of Sevastopol, said on Telegram that the resulting fire injured 24 people. He posted a photo showing the shipyard in flames with smoke billowing over it.

A senior Ukrainian official posted a picture of the burning port on social media and described the strike as a "professional and meaningful statement" in its efforts to keep a crucial shipping corridor open to deliver grain to Asia and Africa.

"The demilitarization of the Russian Black Sea fleet is a real long-term guarantee of security for regional trade routes and the 'grain corridor,'" said Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy. "This is the only correct response to Russia's attempts to turn hunger into a weapon and the only way to ensure uninterrupted grain supplies to the countries of the east and Africa."

Information for this article was contributed by Yuras Karmanau, Stephen McGrath and Brian Melley of The Associated Press.

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