The Russian military accused Ukraine of a “massive” drone strike against the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea on Saturday, accusing Britain of aiding the attack that damaged the ship.

Sevastopol, an annexed Crimea to Moscow, has been targeted several times in recent months, serving as the headquarters of the fleet and a logistical hub for operations in Ukraine.

The Russian military claimed to have “destroyed” nine airborne and seven maritime drones in an attack on the port early Saturday morning.

The Moscow military claimed that British “experts” based in the southern Ukraine city of Ochakiv helped prepare and train Kyiv to carry out the offensive.

Britain, considered one of the most unfriendly Western nations, said last month that the same British forces were involved in the explosion of the Nord Stream gas pipeline.

Moscow’s military said the ships targeting the Crimean base were involved in a UN-brokered deal allowing the export of Ukrainian grain.

Russia has recently criticized the deal, saying Western sanctions have hurt its grain exports.

– ‘Large scale attack –

Moscow-based Sevastopol governor Mikhail Razbodzaev said Saturday’s drone attack was the “most massive” the peninsula had seen.

City services were on “alarm”, but he claimed that “civilian infrastructure” had not been damaged.

He called on city residents not to post videos of the incident on social media.

“It should be clear to everyone that such information is sorely needed by the Nazis in Ukraine in order to understand how the defense of our cities is built.

City officials said the port was “temporarily” closed to boats and ferries and urged people “not to panic.”

Attacks on Crimea, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014, have increased in recent weeks.

Moscow-installed authorities in Kherson, just north of Crimea, have vowed to turn the city into a fortress in case of an inevitable attack.

On Thursday, Razvozhayev said a thermal power plant had been attacked in Balaklava in the Sevastopol region.

He claimed there were only minor injuries and no casualties.

In early October, a bridge in Moscow that connects Crimea to mainland Russia (privately opened by President Vladimir Putin in 2018) was damaged by a blast that Putin blamed on Ukraine.

The Russian fleet stationed in port also came under attack by drones in August.

Russia’s allegations on Saturday came as Ukrainian forces reported fighting in the eastern Lugansk and Donetsk regions, including near Bakhmut – the only area where Moscow forces have advanced in recent weeks. be.

Pro-Russian separatists fighting alongside Moscow also announced a new prisoner exchange with Kyiv, saying 50 people from both sides would return home.

On the Southern Front, an AFP journalist witnessed an artillery battle in the village of Kovzartsy, the last Ukrainian settlement before the line of contact with Russia.

“It may not work out here. But we know they are suffering much more on their side than we are,” said Oleksiy, a Ukrainian soldier in his 20s.

Both sides were preparing for the battle of the city of Kherson, the regional capital that had fallen to Moscow forces in the first days of the offensive.

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