Russian-installed authorities in the Crimean peninsula on Sunday reported shooting down a cruise missile near the city of Kerch and briefly suspending traffic on the Kerch bridge that links the annexed territory to Russia.
The Moscow-appointed governor of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, said the interception of the missile by Russian air defenses didn’t result in any damage or casualties. He didn’t offer any details, including the type of the missile and its origin.
In the nearby Russian region of Rostov, authorities on Sunday also reported shooting down a missile. Gov. Vasily Golubev said the missile was Ukrainian, and its debris damaged the roofs of several buildings. No casualties have been reported.
Such attacks far beyond the front line on Russian regions on the border with Ukraine or the annexed Crimean peninsula have become common during the war in Ukraine that has just surpassed its 500-day mark.
Officials in Russian regions and Moscow-appointed authorities in Crimea, which was illegally annexed in 2014, have regularly reported explosions, drone strikes, and even cross-border raids by Ukrainian saboteurs. Kyiv has never openly taken responsibility for these attacks.
Last October, a massive explosion severely damaged the Kerch bridge — a key transport and supply route for Russian troops in Crimea — leaving it out of commission for weeks. In what appeared to be the first direct admission of Kyiv’s involvement, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar in a Telegram post on Saturday listed the attack among the country’s main achievements in the war so far.
“(It’s been) 273 days since (we) carried out the first strike on the Crimean bridge in order to disrupt the logistics for the Russians,” Maliar wrote.
Among other successes, she also mentioned the sinking of the Moskva cruiser — something the Russian authorities refused to attribute to a Ukrainian attack.
Maliar’s post on Sunday caught the attention of Russian state media and officials. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova once again called President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government a “terrorist regime” in an online statement condemning the attack.
In other developments:
— One of the defense commanders of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol who returned to Ukraine on Saturday announced going back to the battlefield. The sprawling steelworks was the last bastion of resistance as Russian forces took control of the port city early on in the war. Azovstal’s more than 2,000 defenders left the steelworks in mid-May 2022 and were taken into Russian captivity.
The five leaders, some of whom were part of the Azov national guard regiment that Russia denounces as neo-Nazi, were freed in a September prisoner swap and taken to Turkey, where they were to remain until the end of the war under the Turkish president’s protection. On Saturday, however, Zelenskyy brought them back to Ukraine. There was no immediate official explanation of how this squared with the conditions of the exchange.
Speaking to reporters in Ukraine upon returning, Denys Prokopenko — one of the five commanders — said he will return to the battlefield. “I am deeply convinced that the army is a team effort. And from today we will continue the fight together with you. We will definitely have our say in battle,” Prokopenko was quoted by Ukrainian media as saying.
— The death toll from the Russian missile strike on Lyman, a city in the partially occupied Donetsk region that was struck on Saturday, rose to nine on Sunday. Lyman is a few kilometers (miles) from the front line, where Russian troops have recently intensified fighting in the forests of Kreminna.