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Russia Thwarts Drone in Crimea, Strikes Near Southern Nuclear Plant

Smoke rises over the site of explosion at an ammunition storage of Russian army near the village of Mayskoye, Crimea, Aug. 16, 2022. On Aug. 19, 2022, another munitions fire led to the evacuation of two Russian villages near the Ukraine border.
Smoke rises over the site of explosion at an ammunition storage of Russian army near the village of Mayskoye, Crimea, Aug. 16, 2022. On Aug. 19, 2022, another munitions fire led to the evacuation of two Russian villages near the Ukraine border.

Russian air defenses shot down a drone in Crimea Saturday, Russian authorities said. It was the second such incident at the headquarters of its Black Sea Fleet in three weeks.

Oleg Kryuchkov, an aide to Crimea’s governor, also said without elaborating that “attacks by small drones” triggered air defenses in western Crimea.

Russia considers Crimea to be Russian territory, but Ukrainian officials have never accepted its 2014 annexation.

Mikhail Razvozhaev, the governor of Sevastopol, said the drone that was shot down fell on the roof of the Russian fleet’s headquarters but did not cause casualties or major damage.

Razvozhaev posted a new statement on Telegram Saturday night asking residents to stop filming and disseminating pictures of the region's anti-aircraft system and how it was working, Reuters reported.

The incident underlines the vulnerability of Russian forces in Crimea.

Earlier this month, explosions at a Russian air base destroyed nine Russian warplanes and earlier this week a Russian ammunition depot in Crimea was hit by a blast. A drone attack on the Black Sea headquarters July 31 injured five people and forced the cancellation of observances of Russia's Navy Day, The Associated Press said.

Ukrainian authorities have not claimed responsibility for any of the attacks, but President Volodymyr Zelenskyy referred obliquely to them Saturday in his nightly video address, Reuters reported, saying there was anticipation there for next week's anniversary of Ukrainian independence from Soviet rule.

"You can literally feel Crimea in the air this year, that the occupation there is only temporary, and that Ukraine is coming back," he said.

Christopher Miller, a professor of international history at Tufts University, told The New York Times, that Ukraine may try to disrupt Russian logistics and supply lines, and also put the war back on the Russian domestic political agenda.

Heightened nuclear fears

For weeks shelling around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant has raised fears of a nuclear disaster.

On Saturday, Voznesensk, which is about 30 km (19 miles) from the Pivdennoukrainsk Nuclear Power Plant (PNPP), the second largest in Ukraine, was hit by a Russian missile Reuters reported, quoting Vitaliy Kim, the Mykolaiv regional governor.

Kim said on Telegram that the missile injured at least nine people and damaged houses and an apartment block in the town of Voznesensk.

State-run Energoatom, which manages all four Ukrainian nuclear energy generators, called the attack on Voznesensk "another act of Russian nuclear terrorism," Reuters reported.

"It is possible that this missile was aimed specifically at the Pivdennoukrainsk Nuclear Power Plant, which the Russian military tried to seize back at the beginning of March," Energoatom said in a statement.

Reuters was unable immediately to verify the situation in Voznesensk. There were no reports of any damage to the Pivdennoukrainsk plant. Russia did not immediately respond to requests for comment, Reuters said.

Ukraine has asked the United Nations and other international organizations to force Russia to leave the Zaporizhzhia plant, which it has occupied since March.

Enerhodar, a town near the Zaporizhzhia plant, has recently seen repeated shelling, with Moscow and Kyiv trading blame for the attacks, according to Reuters.

Talks have been underway for more than a week to arrange for a visit to the plant by the U.N.’s nuclear power agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In a phone call Friday, President Vladimir Putin told French President Emmanuel Macron that Russia will allow international inspectors to enter the Zaporizhzhia plant.

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi “welcomed recent statements indicating that both Ukraine and Russia supported the IAEA's aim to send a mission" to the plant.

Sober warning from Britain

Conservative British Member of Parliament Tobias Ellwood, who chairs the House of Commons Defense Select Committee, cautioned that any nuclear accident at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant could draw NATO into the war between Russia and Ukraine.

“Let’s make it clear now: any deliberate damage causing potential radiation leak to a Ukrainian nuclear reactor would be a breach of NATO’s Article 5,” he said Friday on Twitter.

Article 5 of the NATO treaty states that an armed attack against one or more NATO allies in Europe or North America is to be considered an attack against them all and compels each to take any action it deems necessary to assist the attacked member state.

There is growing concern in Europe that shelling around Zaporizhzhia could result in a catastrophe worse than the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters and The New York Times.