Ukraine on Thursday said it flew its flag on the Russian-annexed Crimea, in a symbolic win during a “special operation” to mark its second wartime Independence Day.
Kyiv has repeatedly said it aims to take back Crimea, which is recognised internationally as part of Ukraine but controlled by Russia since 2014 when Moscow’s forces seized the peninsula.
Ukraine’s GUR intelligence agency said its special forces landed overnight on Crimea’s western shore near the towns of Olenivka and Mayak, where it “engaged in combat”.
“As a result, the enemy suffered losses among personnel, enemy equipment was destroyed,” it said in a statement, adding that the “state flag flew again in the Ukrainian Crimea.”
The assault, it said, was part of a “special joint operation” with the country’s navy.
Ukraine has launched multiple attacks on the Black Sea peninsula since the start of Moscow’s invasion, and refers to the territory as “temporarily occupied” in statements.
On Wednesday, Kyiv said it had destroyed a powerful Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system in that area, which it said inflicted a “painful blow” on enemy air defences.
– ‘Difficult times’ –
The overnight operation was announced on the occasion of Independence Day as the war with Russia entered its 19th month.
“We honoured the memory of the fallen defenders of our country,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote in a Telegram message after visiting Saint Sophia’s Cathedral in Kyiv with his wife.
He urged Ukrainians not to “lose faith in these difficult times” as the country makes efforts for “victory over Russian evil.”
Freedom, he added, is a “value for each of us, and we are fighting for it.”
On Kreshchatyk Street in the heart of the capital Kyiv, people took selfies next to charred and wrecked Russian tanks and armoured vehicles captured from the battlefield.
People milled around the street, gazing at the hardware that had been arranged in a long line as war trophies.
The country’s military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov said on Telegram that the fight for independence “continues to this day — now with the imperial aggressor” Russia.
The state holiday, which marks 32 years since Ukraine declared its post-Soviet independence from Moscow, comes as Kyiv’s troops fight a grinding counteroffensive against Russian forces.
At least 10 people were wounded in a Russian missile strike on the central city of Dnipro, a regional administration official wrote on Telegram.
At least three people were hospitalised, including a 55-year-old woman.
The official posted several photos of a damaged transport facility, showing gutted buildings, shattered windows and debris.
– Strikes on infrastructure –
In southern Ukraine, Russian shelling in Kherson — a city recaptured last November which still faces Russian bombardment — left a seven-year-old girl injured, according to another regional administration official.
The girl was rushed to hospital after suffering injuries to her back, arms and legs after her apartment was hit, the official, Oleksandr Prokudin, wrote on Telegram.
Also on Thursday, DTEK, the largest commercial energy player in Ukraine, said one of its thermal power plants was hit by Russian bombardment.
The plant, which has suffered repeated Russian attacks, was “damaged”, it said, but reported no casualties.
Repeated strikes on energy infrastructure last winter had plunged Ukrainian cities into darkness and cold.
Kyiv launched its counteroffensive in June after stockpiling Western-supplied weapons, building up assault battalions and working to degrade Russian positions in the country’s east and south.
But progress has been modest, with the military advance hampered by Russian minefields and entrenched defence lines.