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Ukraine claims it destroyed a large Russian fleet ship

Ukraine’s air force said it had destroyed a Russian fleet ship in the Black Sea suspected of carrying drones for use in Moscow’s war against Kyiv.

The large landing ship Novocherkassk was “destroyed” by air force pilots, the service posted on the Telegram messaging platform.

“People say that it transported Shaheds,” the message added, referring to Iranian explosive drones used regularly by Russia against Ukraine.

The military did not specify where the attack took place, but air force commandant Mykola Olechtchouk posted a video of a fiery explosion at the Russian naval base of Feodosia, on the Black Sea in the occupied Crimean peninsula.

“And the fleet in Russia is getting smaller and smaller! Thanks to the Air Force pilots and everyone involved for the filigree work!” said Mr Oleshchuk.

The report could not be independently verified and there was no immediate comment from Russia.

Sergey Aksyonov, the Kremlin-backed head of Crimea, said: “An enemy attack was carried out in the area of Feodosia”.

“The port area is cordoned off,” he wrote on Telegram.

“As of now, the detonation has stopped and the fire has been localised. All relevant services are on site. Residents of several houses will be evacuated.”

Ukraine frequently carries out strikes in Crimea, particularly targeting the Russian military.

In April 2022, it sank the cruiser Moskva, the flagship of the Black Sea fleet.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in a broadly condemned move in 2014

Both Russia and Ukraine have often exaggerated the losses they claim to have inflicted upon each other in the 22-month long war, while underestimated their own casualty and equipment losses.

Earlier yesterday, Mr Aksyonov said only that the Ukrainian attack resulted in a fire in the town’s port area that was promptly contained.

“All relevant emergency services are on site,” he said on the Telegram. “Residents of several houses will be evacuated.”

Meanwhile, Russian troops have also intensified land and air-based attacks on the town of Avdiivka since mid-October as the focal point of their slow-moving push through eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.

Avdiivka was briefly captured in 2014 by Russian-backed separatists who seized large chunks of eastern Ukraine.

Fortifications were later built around the town – seen as a gateway to Donetsk.

Maryinka seen as ‘opportunity’

Russia said that its forces have gained full control of Maryinka in Ukraine’s east, but Kyiv’s military denied Moscow’s claim, saying Ukrainian troops were still within the borders of the blighted town.

“Our assault units (…) have today completely liberated the settlement of Maryinka,” Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a televised meeting.

Mr Putin said control of the town, which lies some five kms southwest of the city of Donetsk, will allow the Russian forces to move enemy combat units away from Donetsk.

“Our troops (now) have the opportunity to reach a wider operational area,” he said in a video of the exchange between him and Mr Shoigu posted online by a Kremlin journalist.

Read more on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

But Oleksandr Shtupun, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military, told the Ukrainian national broadcaster that fierce fighting for the town continued.

“Our troops are in the administrative borders of Maryinka,the battles for the city continue,” he said.

“The city is completely destroyed, but it is incorrect to talk about the complete capture of Maryinka.”

Reuters could not independently verify the reports or who controls Maryinka, a small town in the Donetsk region that had a pre-war population of about 10,000 people and has since been turned into rubble.

The reports on the assault on Maryinka came as Moscow pushes on with its most recent offensive along the whole eastern front aiming to take control of more Ukrainian territory.

Ukraine’s troops have long built strong fortification in Maryinka, allowing them to repel numerous Russian attacks there. If Russia’s claims about taking over the town prove true, it would be Moscow’s most significant battlefield gains since May.

Moscow captured in May the Ukrainian town of Bakhmut, the setting of some of the bloodiest fighting in the 22-month long war. Ukraine’s counteroffensive that followed in June has aimed to retake land in the country’s south and east, including Bakhmut.

Kyiv’s forces, however, have struggled to make significant progress in the counteroffensive in the face of entrenched Russian resistance.

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