Russia’s naval headquarters in Crimea was blasted by a drone Saturday, incapacitating more than half of their fleet in the Black Sea.

Officials speaking on condition of anonymity said that Ukraine is gaining momentum yet again, and they continue to see “kinetic effects” of their move in the Crimean peninsula. More videos were published online as civilians were alarmed by the damage. Local officials and residents couldn’t determine the extent of the damage, but this gave them a lot of doubt about the security in the region.

Novofedorivka is an urban-type settlement where the Russian Naval Aviation aircraft trains. During the 2014 Russia-Ukraine war, Russia annexed Crimea, including nearby towns, Novofedorivka, and the Saky airbase (just adjacent to Novofedorivka).

On Aug. 9, powerful attacks landed on the Saky airfield, with columns of smoke seen from the sky and the land. Russian-proxy Crimean Governor Sergey Aksyonov confirmed the attacks and said these directly landed on the airfield, but he did not disclose nor confirm the cause of the blast. Russian Defense Ministry also claimed that this was just a part of Moscow’s strategy and that “everything is going according to plan.” They even noted that it was just caused by the “detonation of several aviation munitions.” No reports on injured soldiers or aircraft were noted.

However, in a matter of hours, Crimean “authorities” reported five casualties in the explosions. Russian state media then followed with “one person killed, nine injured” headcount report.

“Preparing the ground for future accusations against Ukraine, Russia began to say that all the wounded were civilians,” according to Yahoo.

But, all of these were overturned by yesterday’s attack since this is the only one Ukraine is claiming to be done by their forces. Since it’s a battle of saving face, Russia’s Mikhail Razvozhaev said that the attack didn’t even hit Saky. He said that the drone flew over the airbase and that they were not affected at all.

Mikhail Razvozhaev
Acting Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhaev during a meeting with President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin (Source: Press Service of the President of Russia/Wikimedia)

“Clarification: the drone was hit…right above the fleet headquarters. It fell on the roof and caught fire. The attack failed. Well done boys,” he wrote.

Razvozhayev also called for the citizens of Crimea to remain calm after the videos of the attack circulated online.

“I understand that many are worried,” Razvozhayev said. “But that is exactly what the Ukrainian Reich” — a reference to Russia’s false characterization of Ukraine as a Nazi state — “wants to achieve.”

However, worried civilians are calling out Russian counterparts and asking for a more transparent answer from the government.

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“Was our air defence system on a lunch break?”
“When will you finally close the city?” asked another user.
“We fought harder against the coronavirus! There were checkposts everywhere then, now anyone and everyone enters!!!!” another person responded.

Most wonder if they will still be safe after the Ukrainian Army continues to press forward in Crimea. Many are also weary of the date Aug. 24, the Independence Day of Ukraine. Since Crimea used to be part of their nation, will this be a deciding date for them to take it back?

“They have Independence Day on the 24th, maybe they are preparing something? And the [drone] is just to divert attention from the main thing.”

More images of antiaircraft fire entering Crimean skies have also rung the alarm on the locals, especially since social media images and videos continue to get shared at a drastic speed. While Kremlin continues to feed local media with the so-called “special military operation” to save Ukraine from the Nazis, the message is beginning to go stale.

“People are beginning to feel that the war is coming to them,” Andrei Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, a research organization close to the Russian government, said in a phone interview. “I think this is serious.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s public statements also add to the tension. Though somewhat filtered, Russian locals can still get access to Ukrainian public broadcasts shared through social media. And as per Ukraine’s updates, their “recapturing” of Crimea started on the Aug. 9 strike, and they have ongoing plans to move forward.

“One can literally feel in the air of Crimea that the occupation there is temporary, and Ukraine is returning,” Zelensky said.

Crimea is a critical point in this Russo-Ukraine war. This is the land that Russian President Vladimir Putin called the “holy land.” This is also a vital military base and an open port for international trade.

Crimea holds a strong symbol for both Russia and Ukraine. The question is, who will finally claim Crimea as their own?