A suspected Ukraine drone strike that ignited a massive fire at a Crimean oil depot in the Russian-occupied city of Sevastopol was a prelude to a much-anticipated spring offensive, the Ukraine military warned Sunday.
Russian Occupation governor Mikhail Razvozhaev blamed the fire Saturday on a Ukrainian drone, and social media footage showed the fire raging at a storage facility at Kozacha Bay. He said no injuries were reported.
The Ukraine military, as usual after a strike into Russia, did not claim direct responsibility, but spokesperson Natalia Humeniuk came close.
“This work is a preparation for the broad, full-scale offensive that everyone expects,” Humeniuk told Ukraine Pravda.
The attack came a day after Russia struck Ukraine with over 20 cruise missiles and two drones, killing at least 23 people. Most of the deaths took place in an apartment building in the central Ukraine city of Uman.
Ukraine military intelligence spokesperson Andriy Yusov told RBC Ukraine the Crimean strike was “God’s punishment. … This punishment will be long-lasting.” He warned residents of Crimea to stay away from sites that support “the aggressor’s army.”
A Russian military blogger based in Sevastopol reported that two Ukrainian drones destroyed four fuel tanks, the Study for the Institute of War said in its most recent assessment of the war. Another Russian military blogger reported that at least 10 drones conducted the attack but that most were shot down. Crimean occupation head Sergey Aksyonov said the attack did not result in any casualties.
Russia has occupied Crimea for nine years. Since Russia invaded Ukraine more than a year ago, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pledged to drive Russian forces out of all Ukraine’s territory, including Crimea.
►Ukrainian forces shelled the city of Nova Kakhovka, according to Moscow-installed authorities in the Russian-occupied part of southern Ukraine’s Kherson province. “Severe artillery fire” cut off power in the city, the officials said.
►Ukraine is set to boycott the world judo championships next week after the International Judo Federation signaled it will allow Russian and Belarusian competitors to enter the event, a key Olympic qualifier.
RUSSIAN MISSILE STRIKES KILL 23:The attack was among the deadliest in months: Updates
Wagner leader threatens to back off Bakhmut without more ammo
Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin threatened to withdraw Wagner forces from Bakhmut if the Russian military command fails to provide more ammunition to the Wagner mercenaries. Prigozhin told a Kremlin-affiliated miitary blogger that his troops will continue to fight in Bakhmut but will need to “withdraw in an organized manner or stay and die” if the situation does immediately not improve.
Prigozhin said Wagner needs about 80,000 shells per day – its previous shell allowance prior to apparent Russian Ministry of Defense efforts to reduce Wagner’s influence. Prigozhin added that Wagner is only receiving 800 of the 4,000 shells per day that it is now requesting. Prigozhin claimed that Wagner and Deputy Commander of Russian Forces in Ukraine Army General Sergei Surovikin developed a plan to “grind” the Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut to deprive Ukraine of its initiative on the battlefield.
Ukraine: Residents in occupied areas can get Russian passports to ‘survive’
Ukrainians who live in Russian-controlled regions of Ukraine should “make a decision to survive” and sign up for Russian passports, Ukrainian human rights commissioner Dmytro Lubinets said Sunday. Otherwise, people should leave occupied territories “in any possible way,” the ombudsman told the Kyiv Independent.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree last week allowing the deportation of Ukrainians who refuse Russian citizenship. Ukrainians who choose to retain their Ukrainian citizenship can be deported after July 1, 2024. They also face arrest, turning them into a “separate category of civilian hostages,” Lubinets said.
“This decree is aimed at legalizing forced ‘passportization,'” Lubinets said.
Moscow promises ‘very harsh’ response to embassy school eviction
Moscow will give a “very harsh” response to the seizure of the Russian embassy’s school in Poland, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Sunday.
Polish authorities ordered the Russian staff out Saturday, saying the building was part of Warsaw City Hall. Moscow described the eviction as illegal. Russia’s Ambassador to Poland Sergey Andreyev told TASS that on Sunday the staff of the school was moving equipment out of the building and that an alternative site had been obtained. Classes will resume after the May holidays on May 10, Andreyev said.
Zakharova told Russia’s TV1 channel that “Warsaw will receive retaliatory steps. … This is their choice; we will respond.”
Contributing: The Associated Press