Ukrainian forces have carried out their most complex and ambitious operations to date against Russian military facilities in the occupied region of Crimea, officials in Kyiv have said.
Special forces landed on the western shore of Crimea, near the settlements of Olenivka and Mayak, in a joint operation with the country’s Navy, according to Ukrainian Defense Intelligence.
“While performing the task, Ukrainian defenders clashed with the occupier’s units. As a result, the enemy suffered losses among its personnel and destroyed enemy equipment,” the intelligence agency said.
While they were there, the Ukrainian unit also raised the national flag, it added.
Russian-appointed authorities in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula which has been illegally occupied by Moscow’s forces since 2014, have not responded to the claims.
The operation would constitute one of the most daring moves by Kyiv since launching its cagey counter-offensive against Russian troops, which has so far made only limited progress.
Kyiv has recently ramped up drone strikes on Crimea in a push to disrupt Russian logistics and resupply efforts, a shift in focus that has been met with skepticism in parts of the West.
The area contains extensive air defenses and missile sites, including advanced systems. The Ukrainians said Wednesday they had destroyed an S-400 missile defense battery in the area.
Mayak is said to be home to a Russian radio engineering regiment and sophisticated radar systems.
Unofficial Russian social media accounts have spoken of firing near a campsite at Cape Tarkhankut – the westernmost point in Crimea – before dawn on Thursday. One channel said the first shooting broke out shortly before 4 a.m.
“When people woke up and came out of the houses and tents to the beach, they saw two rubber boats not far from the shore. There were 10 unidentified men in them. One of them fired at the camping site,” according to the Telegram channel SHOT.
A prominent Russian military blog, Wargonzo, reported that “According to some sources, a Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group landed in the area of Cape Tarkhankut, shelled the camping on the seashore and fled in the direction of Odesa.”
A Telegram channel associated with a military unit of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic also reported the clashes.
The 105th Regiment of the DPR militia said four light-engine boats with Ukrainian saboteurs were destroyed near Cape Tarkhankut. “Russian security forces liquidated the sabotage and reconnaissance in the sea at about four in the morning. According to preliminary data, about 15-20 people were liquidated,” it claimed.
Ukrainian Defense Intelligence released several videos purporting to show Ukrainian inflatables close to the Crimean coast in the darkness.
Video has also emerged of Ukrainian inflatable boats firing an anti-aircraft missile at a Russian jet. The Russian Defense Ministry released cockpit video showing a jet fighter using cannon fire against the boats.
Ukraine has meanwhile claimed some gains on the southern front in Zaporizhzhia region, and are still on the offensive around Bakhmut, as Kyiv’s counter-offensive gradually progresses in the east of the country.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces said Thursday that units had succeeded “in the direction of Novodanylivka and Novoprokopivka, consolidating their positions, inflicting artillery fire on the identified enemy targets, and conducting counter-battery operations.”
“The enemy is suffering significant losses in personnel, weapons and equipment, is moving units and troops and actively using reserves,” the General Staff said.
Ukrainian defenders were also holding back Russian attempts to advance further north around Kupiansk in the Kharkiv region, as well as efforts to break through west of Svatove in neighboring Luhansk. In this area, the Ukrainians say that the Russians have poured more forces into the battlefield.