Ukraine deals devastating blow to Russia with destruction of key base: a 'crucial time' in conflict: report

The attack reportedly added another huge blow to Russia's naval power in the Black Sea as Ukraine makes a renewed and strong push to progress against Russian positions before weather turns.

Ukraine deals devastating blow to Russia with destruction of key base: a 'crucial time' in conflict: report

Ukraine dealt a significant blow to Russia’s naval power with a devastating strike against the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters, with one serviceman missing after the attack, the Russian Defense Ministry said. 

"With a series of carefully calibrated drone attacks over the past several weeks on and around Crimea and deeper into Russia, Ukraine has eroded Putin’s red lines of Russia-proper being off limits for Kyiv’s strikes," Rebekah Koffler, president of Doctrine & Strategy Consulting and a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer, told Fox News Digital.

Friday’s attack in Sevastopol was part of a wider assault against Russian assets on the Crimean Peninsula, which remains a disputed territory and chief target for Ukrainian efforts. Reuters reported that a major cyberattack interrupted internet services on the peninsula. 

Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed that air defense systems shot down five missiles. Officials also initially reported one serviceman had died in the attack but later revised his status to simply "missing." 

Sevastopol's residents said they heard explosions in the skies and saw smoke, Russian news outlets reported. Images circulated in Ukrainian Telegram channels showed clouds of smoke over the seafront. 

Mikhail Razvoshayev, the Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol, reported that the attack caused a massive fire and that residents should avoid the city center while firefighters fight the blaze. Smoke from the fire could be seen from miles away. 

He stressed that there have been no reported civilian casualties or damage to civilian infrastructure. 

The city has brought in more emergency personnel to fight the blaze, which could indicate the fire remains out of control. A stream of ambulances arrived at the fleet’s headquarters, and shrapnel was scattered for hundreds of yards, the Tass news agency reported.

Ukraine has not yet taken credit for the attack, but Ukrainian Air Force Commander Gen. Mykola Oleshchuk on Telegram cryptically hinted that Kyiv "told you there’d be more" following today’s strike. 

The Ukrainian air force last week hit naval targets and port infrastructure, the BBC reported. Last week’s strike also damaged a Russian submarine and warship. 

Koffler argued that the recent strikes, the result of a push to make progress before the weather turns and makes fighting more difficult, has led to "the unthinkable" for Russia – a war on its own front. 

"Zelenskyy wants to keep going, probing Putin’s real red lines and will for a massive retaliation," she explained. "We are at a very crucial time now in this conflict." 

"It looks like Zelenskyy got assurances from the White House it will indeed maintain a robust level of support for the defense of Ukraine," she added. 

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.