Drones return to Crimea as Ukraine fighting intensifies near Bakhmut

Russian authorities report shooting down Ukrainian drones in Crimea, while Ukrainian officials say Russian forces pressed ahead with efforts to seize one of the few cities in Eastern Ukraine not already under their control, and kept up their strikes on communities in the north and south.

'Attacks by small drones' triggered air-defence systems in western Crimea, official says

Ukranian soldiers are seen Saturday inside a base near the front line in southern Ukraine. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian authorities on Saturday reported shooting down Ukrainian drones in Crimea, while Ukrainian officials said Russian forces pressed ahead with efforts to seize one of the few cities in Eastern Ukraine not already under their control. 

The Russian military also kept up its strikes in Ukraine's north and south.

In Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, Russian authorities said local air defences shot down a drone above the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. It was the second drone incident at the headquarters in three weeks, and followed explosions at a Russian airfield and ammunition depot on the peninsula this month.

Oleg Kryuchkov, an aide to Crimea's governor, also said Saturday that "attacks by small drones" triggered air-defence systems in western Crimea.

"Air defence systems successfully hit all targets over the territory over Crimea on Saturday morning. There are no casualties or material damage," his boss, Sergei Aksyonov, said on Telegram.

A child stands on a destroyed Russian tank Saturday in Kyiv, where a group of destroyed military vehicles is being displayed in an exhibition. (Nacho Doce/Reuters)

Sevastopol's governor, Mikhail Razvozhaev, said on Telegram that the city's air-defence systems were called into action again late Saturday.

The incidents underlined Russian forces' vulnerability in Crimea. A drone attack on the Black Sea headquarters on July 31 injured five people and forced the cancellation of observances of Russia's Navy Day.

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This week, a Russian ammunition depot in Crimea was hit by an explosion. Last week, nine Russian warplanes were reported destroyed at an airbase on Crimea.

Ukrainian authorities have stopped short of publicly claiming responsibility. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy alluded to Ukrainian attacks behind enemy lines after the blasts in Crimea.

12 wounded in Voznesensk missile strike

Fighting in southern Ukrainian areas just north of Crimea has stepped up in recent weeks as Ukrainian forces try to drive Russian forces out of cities they have occupied since early in the nearly six-month-old war.

A Russian missile attack wounded 12 people, including some children, and damaged houses and an apartment block Saturday in the town of Voznesensk in the Mykolaiv region, the Ukrainian prosecutor's office said. Two of the children were in serious condition and the governor said one had lost an eye.

Ukrainian authorities say a residential building in Voznesensk, Ukraine, was damaged by a Russian missile strike on Saturday, along with some private homes. Twelve people were reported injured in the wake of the strike. (State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Reuters)

A Ukrainian airstrike, meanwhile, hit targets in Melitopol, the largest Russian-controlled city in Zaporizhzhia region, according to Ukrainian and Russia-installed local officials.

The Ukrainian military on Saturday said it had destroyed a prized Russian radar system and other equipment stationed in occupied areas in the southern Zaporizhzhia region. It was not clear if this was the strike on Melitopol.

"Tonight, there were powerful explosions in Melitopol, which the whole city heard," said Ivan Fedorov, the Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol.

"According to preliminary data," it was "a precise hit on one of the Russian military bases, which the Russian fascists are trying to restore for the umpteenth time in the airfield area."

A view from Kharkiv, Ukraine, shows rockets being launched from Russia's Belgorod region early Saturday morning. (Vadim Belikov/The Associated Press)

Eye on Bakhmut

In the east, Ukraine's military General Staff said Saturday that intensified combat took place around Bakhmut, a small city whose capture would enable Russia to threaten the two largest remaining Ukrainian-held cities in the eastern Donbas region.

Ukrainian soldiers prepare roadblocks in Bakhmut in Eastern Ukraine in Donetsk region on Saturday. (Ammar Awad/Reuters)

Bakhmut for weeks has been a key target of Moscow's eastern offensive as the Russian military tries to complete a months-long campaign to conquer all of Donbas, where pro-Moscow separatists have proclaimed two republics that Russia recognized as sovereign states at the beginning of the war.

A local Ukrainian official reported sustained fighting Saturday morning near four settlements on the border between Luhansk and Donetsk provinces, which together make up the contested region.

Luhansk Gov. Serhii Haidai did not name the settlements or mention Bakhmut. 

Russian forces overran nearly all of Luhansk last month and since then have focused on capturing Ukrainian-held areas of Donetsk.

People shop Saturday on a street in Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. Bakhmut has for weeks been a key target of Moscow's eastern offensive. (Ammar Awad/Reuters)

On Friday, Russian shelling killed seven civilians in Donetsk province, including four in Bakhmut, Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote Saturday on Telegram. Taking Bakhmut would give the Russians room to advance on the province's main Ukrainian-held cities, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

Ukraine said Sloviansk and Kramatorsk were targeted Friday, along with the Kharkiv region to the north, home to Ukraine's second largest city.

Local authorities reported renewed Russian shelling overnight along a broad front, including of the northern Kharkiv and Sumy regions, which border Russia, as well as of the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region and Mykolaiv.

Also Saturday, pedestrians in downtown Kyiv took pictures of a large column of burned-out and captured Russian tanks and infantry carriers that was put on display on a central boulevard in the Ukrainian capital.

The display comes just days ahead of Ukraine's independence day on Aug. 24, which also marks six months since the Russian invasion.

Ukrainians check out a group of destroyed Russian military vehicles that have been displayed in Kyiv. (Andrew Kravchenko/The Associated Press)