Ukraine war: The latest developments you need to know for Sunday
1. Drone attack on Russia’s Black Sea HQ in Crimea
A small explosive device carried by a makeshift drone blew up Sunday at the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet on the Crimean Peninsula, wounding six people and prompting the cancellation of ceremonies there honoring Russia’s navy, authorities said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attended Navy Day celebrations in St. Petersburg on Sunday.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the drone explosion in a courtyard at the naval headquarters in the city of Sevastopol. But the seemingly improvised, small-scale nature of the attack raised the possibility that it was the work of Ukrainian insurgents trying to drive out Russian forces.
A Russian lawmaker from Crimea, Olga Kovitidi, told Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti that the drone was launched from Sevastopol itself. She said the incident was being treated as a terrorist act, the news agency said.
Crimean authorities raised the terrorism threat level for the region to “yellow,” the second-highest tier.
Sevastopol, which was seized along with the rest of Crimea from Ukraine by Russia in 2014, is about 170 kilometers south of the Ukrainian mainland. Russian forces control much of the mainland along the Black Sea.
The Black Sea Fleet’s press service said the drone appeared to be homemade. It described the explosive device as “low-power.” Sevastopol Mayor Mikhail Razvozhaev said six people were wounded. Observances of Russia’s Navy Day holiday were canceled in the city.
2. President Zelenskyy orders Donetsk evacuation
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for civilians to evacuate the Donetsk region to escape “Russian terror.”
“A government decision has been made on the mandatory evacuation of the Donetsk region,” Zelensky said in a video address on Saturday evening. “Please evacuate,” he demanded. “The more people leave the Donetsk region now, the fewer people the Russian army will kill.”
“At this stage of the war, terror is Russia’s main weapon,” he said.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Verechtchuk had earlier announced the mandatory evacuation of the entire population of Donetsk, one of two administrative regions in the Donbass industrial basin where Russia is gaining ground.
She had justified this decision, in statements on television, by the destruction of the gas networks and the absence of heating next winter in the region.
At least 200,000 civilians still live in the territories of the Donetsk region that are not under Russian occupation, according to an estimate by the Ukrainian authorities.
“In total, there are currently about 52,000 children in the Donetsk region. Police officers are explaining to parents that the evacuation involves providing accommodation and all necessary assistance,” said the state police, which is in charge of the operation.
3. Red Cross struggles to see prison where Ukraine POWs died
Ukrainian and Russian officials blamed each other Saturday for the deaths of dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in an attack on a prison in a separatist-controlled area. The International Red Cross asked to visit the prison to make sure the scores of wounded POWs had proper treatment, but said its request had not been granted so far.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the ICRC and the United Nations have a duty to react to the shelling of the prison complex in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province, and he called again for Russia to be declared a terrorist state.
“Condemnation at the level of political rhetoric is not enough for this mass murder,” he said.
Separatist authorities and Russian officials said the attack Friday killed 53 Ukrainian POWs and wounded another 75. Russia’s Defense Ministry on Saturday issued a list naming 48 Ukrainian fighters, aged 20 to 62, who died in the attack; it was not clear if the ministry had revised its fatality count.
Satellite photos taken before and after the attack show that a small, squarish building in the middle of the Olenivka prison complex was demolished, its roof in splinters.
Both Ukraine and Russia alleged the attack on the prison was premeditated and intended to silence the Ukrainian prisoners and destroy evidence.
The ICRC, which has organized civilian evacuations and worked to monitor the treatment of POWs held by Russia and Ukraine, said it requested access to the prison “to determine the health and condition of all the people present on-site at the time of the attack.”
“Our priority right now is making sure that the wounded receive lifesaving treatment and that the bodies of those who lost their lives are dealt with in a dignified manner,” the Red Cross said.
But the organization said that its request to access the prison had not been granted yet.
“Granting ICRC access to POWs is an obligation of parties to conflict under the Geneva Conventions,” the ICRC said on Twitter.
4. Grain exporter – one of Ukraine’s richest men – killed in shelling
One of Ukraine’s richest men, a grain merchant, was killed in what Ukrainian authorities said was a carefully targeted Russian missile strike on his home.
Oleksiy Vadatursky, 74, owner of Ukraine’s leading grain logistics company Nibulon, and his wife Raissa Vadaturska were at home in the southern Ukrainian town of Mykolayev at the time of the strikes, according to Ukrainian authorities.
“This is not a coincidence, but a premeditated murder,” Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to the Ukrainian presidency, reacted on Telegram. “The fact that the missile hit the bedroom of their house leaves no doubt that Vadatursky was the target.
“He was one of the country’s leading agricultural entrepreneurs, a key figure in the region and a major employer,” Podoliak said.
A millionaire and “hero of Ukraine”, Oleksiy Vadatursky was the 24th richest Ukrainian on Forbes magazine’s list in 2021. Before the war his company exported grain to 70 countries.
5. Russia wants to strengthen its position in the Arctic
Russia wants to strengthen its positions in the Arctic, both economically and militarily, according to a new Russian naval doctrine signed on Sunday by Vladimir Putin on the occasion of Russian Fleet Day.
The Arctic is being “transformed into a region of international competition, not only from an economic point of view, but also from a military point of view,” said the doctrine, which was signed with great fanfare at a naval parade in St. Petersburg.
Russia said it will strengthen its “leading positions in the exploration and conquest of the Arctic” and its mineral deposits and ensure its “strategic stability” in the area by strengthening the military potential of the Russian Northern and Pacific Fleets, the document says.
In the Arctic, the country also wants to “fully develop the Northern Sea Route”, also known as the Northeast Passage, which links Europe to Asia along the Russian coast, to transform it into a “secure and competitive route that would operate all year round”, according to the doctrine.
The 55-page document also denounces the United States’ desire for “dominance in world waters” and the “rapprochement of NATO’s military infrastructure to Russia’s borders”, describing these phenomena as “major threats” to Russia.
Moscow considers NATO, its old Cold War enemy, to be an existential threat and has justified its offensive in Ukraine by citing Kiev’s Atlanticist ambitions and Western political and military support for Russia’s neighbour.