Ukraine hits Russian shipyard in Crimea port, damages ship

By Maria Starkova and Elaine Monaghan

LVIV (Reuters) -Ukraine rained 15 cruise missiles on Russia's shipyard in the Crimean port city of Kerch on Saturday, damaging one ship, Russian defence ministry said, in an attack that could further undermine Moscow's striking capabilities.

Thirteen of the missiles were destroyed in the air, while one hit a ship, the Russian defence ministry said in a typically laconic statement when reporting on Ukraine's strikes on Russian territory or infrastructure. It did not give the ship's name.

Ukraine's top Air Force commander said the Russian Navy stationed there one of its most modern ships, a carrier of the Kalibr cruise missile. Moscow has often attacked Ukraine in the course of the 20-month-long war with Kalibr missiles.

"I hope another ship has followed the Moskva!" Mykola Oleshchuk, commander of Ukraine's Air Force, said in a Telegram post, referring to the Russian Black Sea Fleet flagship sunk by Ukrainian missiles on April 14, 2022.

Reuters was unable to verify the Russian and Ukrainian statements, nor social media posts, including video, of missile activity and a fire and smoke the posts said was rising from shipyard.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Kyiv's increased ability to strike warships and diminish Russian surveillance options in the Black Sea have undermined Russia's war efforts and helped Ukraine to secure a shipping route to export its grain.

Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-installed head of Crimea, said there were no casualties in the Saturday attack on the shipyard in Kerch in Crimea. Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in a widely condemned move in 2014.

According to some Ukrainian war monitoring Telegram channels, a small Russian cruise missile carrier the Askold, was damaged in the attack. Reuters could not verify those reports.

In September, the Russian defence ministry said that the Askold ship of the Black Sea Fleet was engaged in destroying Ukrainian targets in the waters off Crimea.

According to earlier Russian state media reports, the ship, armed with the Kalibr missiles systems and the Pantsir medium-range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery systems, was to come into the service in the second half of 2023.

(Reporting by Maria Starkova and Elaine Monaghan; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Philippa Fletcher, Ros Russell, Andrew Heavens and Daniel Wallis)