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Ukraine air force chief mocks Moscow as missile hits key Russian navy base in Sevastopol, Crimea

Moscow— The Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol, the biggest city in Ukraine‘s Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula, said Friday that the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea fleet was struck in a Ukrainian missile attack. Russia’s Ministry of Defense later confirmed the strike and said one service member was missing, as a Ukrainian military commander thanked his forces for setting air raid sirens “sounding in Sevastopol.”

State media said Russia’s air defense systems shot down a number of missiles aimed at Crimea, but that the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol was hit by at least one French or British-made cruise missile.

“Work continues to extinguish the fire at the fleet headquarters,” Sevastopol governor Mikhail Razvozhayev said in a post on the Telegram messaging app. “According to preliminary information, the civilian infrastructure around the fleet headquarters was not damaged. The people who were on the street at the time of the impact were also not injured.”

He said he had instructed “an operational headquarters” to be deployed at the scene, but that the situation was under control. There was no immediate confirmation of the extent of the damage to the Black Sea Fleet’s offices, but the state-run TASS news agency said earlier that at least six people were injured in the strike. Video posted on social media shows smoke billowing from the fleet’s headquarters.

Razvozhayev earlier warned residents via his Telegram account that “another attack is possible.” He later dropped that warning, but urged residents to continue avoiding central Sevastopol.

The apparent missile strike came about 10 days after a Ukrainian attack on a strategic shipyard in Sevastopol damaged two Russian military ships that were undergoing repairs and caused a fire at the facility, according to Russian authorities. That attack came as Moscow launched drones at southern Ukraine’s Odesa region.

Ukraine’s government didn’t claim responsibility for the Friday attack on Sevastopol outright, but the commander of the country’s air force, in a sardonic message posted to his Telegram account, thanked his pilots and appeared to mock Moscow’s claim to have downed most of the missiles.

“Air alarms are still sounding in Sevastopol, I thank the pilots of the Air Force once again,” Ukrainian Air Force commander Mikola Oleshuk said in the post, adding a defiant declaration that Sevastopol was “the city of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” not Russia. He opened his message with an apparent reference to the previous attack on Sevastopol, saying: “We promised that ‘there will be more…,’ with an explosion icon.

The strike came a day after Ukrainian officials said a barrage of Russian missiles had struck a half dozen cities, killing at least two people and damaging electricity infrastructure in multiple regions.

The latest exchange of fire came on the heels of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visiting Washington to seek continued support for his country’s effort to defend itself from the Russian invasion. Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress have questioned how, and how much more military and humanitarian aid to send to Ukraine as President Biden seeks an additional $24 billionin aid.

Ratification of Mr. Biden’s request is deeply uncertain thanks to the growing partisan divide in Washington.

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