The Russian defense ministry claimed to have thwarted the overnight attack on the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, but the fate of one of its warships was in doubt after it appeared to have been damaged in the incident.
In a statement released early Friday, the defense ministry said the naval base in southern Russia was attacked by two unmanned sea drones overnight. The drones were destroyed by ships guarding the outer boundary of the naval base, the ministry said.
It did not mention any damage or loss of life due to the incident, which it blamed on Ukraine’s armed forces.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility by Kyiv, which usually refrains from commenting on attacks on Russian soil. Moscow usually immediately blames Ukraine for any such incidents, without providing evidence.
But Ukrainian social media was abuzz with news of the attack, the latest apparent Ukrainian effort to strike strategic targets inside Russia.
Videos circulating online showed a ship resembling the “Olenegorsky Gornyak” warship listing to one side and being towed back to the port that the Russian government said had been attacked. Using satellite imagery and marine ship tracking data, NBC News was able to confirm that the video was filmed in Novorossiysk and showed the same class of warship as the “Olenegorsky Gornyak.”
The port city of Novorossiysk is located on the Black Sea in Russia’s Krasnodar region, in close vicinity to Russian-occupied Crimea.
The defense ministry website says the naval base there is part of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. It was established in 1994, the ministry said, and before the war in Ukraine served as one of the key outposts for border protection and military transportation.
The Krasnodar region Gov. Veniamin Kondratyev said in a post on the Telegram messaging app that there were no casualties or damage as the result of the alleged attack.
The mayor of Novorossiysk, Andrey Kravchenko, mentioned two ships in a post on Telegram, saying the crews of “Olenegorsky Gornyak” and “Suvorovets” immediately reacted and helped to avoid the consequences of the attack.
“Thank you, our warriors and defenders, for protecting the hero city!” he wrote, without mentioning any damage to the ships.
A nearby oil terminal reported that its infrastructure was not damaged, and its operations were unaffected.
The incident comes amid a slew of drone attacks in recent months on Russian territory, including three separate drone attacks on the heart of the Russian capital in the last two weeks.
As Ukraine finds itself in the middle of a crucial counteroffensive to reclaim occupied land, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned last week that the war was gradually “returning to the territory of Russia — to its symbolic centers and military bases” in what he called an “inevitable, natural and absolutely fair process.”
On Tuesday, the Russian defense ministry reported that three Ukrainian unmanned sea drones tried to attack two patrol ships in the southwestern Black Sea, but the attempt was also thwarted.
Kyiv has been careful not to claim responsibility for attacks in Russia, but Ukrainian officials often send sarcastic signals in their aftermath.
Hours after the alleged drone attack on Friday, Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, shared a photo of a Ukrainian soldier flying a drone on Telegram with a caption: “Good Ukrainian morning to everyone. And let everything that you have planned fly.”