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Ukraine war latest: Russian Black Sea Fleet commander killed in Sevastopol strike; Abrams tanks arrive in Ukraine

by Alexander Khrebet and The Kyiv Independent news desk September 25, 2023 10:24 PM 5 min read
Dense black smoke rises above the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in occupied Sevastopol, southwestern Crimea, following the Ukrainian missile strike on Sept. 22. (Krym.Realii/Telegram)
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Key developments on Sept. 25:

  • Ukrainian military says Russian Black Sea Fleet commander, 33 other officers killed in Sevastopol strike
  • Zelensky confirms first Abrams tanks arrive in Ukraine
  • Russian air regiment command reportedly hit in drone attack near Kursk
  • Russian launches overnight drone, missile attack against Ukraine's south

The Russian Black Sea Fleet commander was killed along with 33 other officers in a Sept. 22 strike on the fleet's headquarters in occupied Sevastopol, southwest Crimea, Ukraine's military said.

Admiral Viktor Sokolov, the Russian Black Sea Fleet commander, was among those killed in the missile strike that also injured 105 Russian soldiers and left the headquarters building in ruins, according to Ukraine's Special Operation Forces.

The Special Operation Forces claimed responsibility for the attack on the headquarters, which reportedly was struck with at least two U.K.-provided Storm Shadow long-range missiles.

Satellite imagery by Planet Labs revealed extensive damage the strike caused to the building. Both Ukraine and Russia confirmed that the headquarters was struck following the attack.

The next day after the attack, Military Intelligence Chief Kyrylo Budanov said in an interview with the Voice of America that at least nine people were killed and 16 were injured in the strike.

Budanov said several senior Russian officers were wounded in the attack, including generals Alexander Romanchuk and Oleg Tsekov, leading Russian troops in occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

In recent months, there were several high-profile strikes on Russian forces in the area, including one on Sept. 13 targeting a Russian shipyard using marine drones and missiles that damaged landing craft and a submarine, both of which were undergoing repairs at the time of the strike.

Meanwhile, the Special Operations Forces Command reported that Russian forces suffered 62 casualties in the Sept. 13 strike against the Minsk landing craft docked in the Sevastopol shipyard.

The Minsk's crew was on board when the attack occurred as the ship was scheduled to leave the dock the next day, according to Ukraine's military.

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Abrams tanks arrive in Ukraine

The U.S. delivered the first batch of Abrams tanks to Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed in a Telegram post on Sept. 25 following the New York Times report.

Zelensky didn't mention how many tanks were delivered. The U.S. pledged to provide Ukraine with 31 Abrams tanks.

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Sept. 21 during a bilateral meeting with Zelensky that the initial tranche of U.S. tanks would arrive in Ukraine the following week as a part of a larger package that includes ammunition, anti-tank weapons, and artillery.

Zelensky called the new American $325-million package "historic," saying the new package will include "artillery, missiles for HIMARS, missiles for air defense, additional air defense systems, tactical vehicles," and more.

In January, Biden announced the decision to send 31 Abrams tanks, a force equivalent to one Ukrainian tank battalion, just as other countries pledged Leopard 2 and Challenger 2 tanks.

Abrams tanks, which offer greater mobility and firepower than Soviet and Russian battle tanks Russia deployed to Ukraine, are expected to support Ukrainian defensive and offensive efforts.

The shipments may add momentum to the counteroffensive, which has begun to break through Russian defense lines.

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Russian attacks

Russian forces launched 19 drones, 12 Kalibr cruise missiles, and two anti-ship Onyx missiles against Ukraine's south early on Sept. 25, killing and injuring civilians and damaging port infrastructure.

The Air Force said air defense downed all the drones and 11 Kalibr missiles, mostly over Odesa Oblast.

First responders have found the bodies of two people under the rubble of a grain warehouse in Odesa hit in Russia's overnight attack, Governor Oleh Kiper reported on Sept. 25.

Earlier the same day, Kiper said a woman sustained injuries in Odesa due to the blastwave.

The attack significantly damaged the Odesa Sea Port and an abandoned hotel on the port's territory, Ukraine's Southern Defense Forces reported.

Debris from drones and missiles fell in the Odesa suburbs, damaging warehouses and a private household, the military added.

Since the collapse of the Black Sea Grain Initiative in mid-July, Russia has repeatedly targeted Ukraine's agricultural infrastructure, ports, and grain stockpiles.

Dnipropetrovsk Oblast Governor Serhii Lysak reported on Sept. 25 that some Shahed drones were shot down over Kryvyi Rih. The governor said debris caused a fire at an industrial facility without specifying how many loitering munitions were downed over the city.

The remaining Kalibr missile was downed over Mykolaiv Oblast, according to Vitalii Kim, the regional governor. No damages were reported in the region.

Russian forces also dropped four aerial bombs on Beryslav in Kherson Oblast on the morning of Sept. 25, killing three people and injuring another, Governor Oleksandr Prokudin reported.

According to the Kherson Oblast Prosecutor's Office, houses, farms, and cars have been damaged or destroyed in the airstrike.

Partially occupied Kherson Oblast is a regular target of Russian attacks.

Meanwhile in Russia

Russia's 14th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment commander, his deputy, and an intelligence officer were killed or wounded in a Sept. 24 loitering munition attack on the Khalino airfield near Kursk, Ukrainian media outlet Babel reported on Sept. 25, citing a military intelligence source.

Kursk is located around 100 kilometers north of Ukraine's border. Russian authorities report almost daily attacks on the region.

Roman Starovoit, Kursk region governor, claimed a drone attack in the morning of Sept. 25, saying several houses and an administrative building have been damaged.

Babel reported, citing intelligence sources, that the Sept. 25 attack hit a facility of Russia's Interior Ministry.

Claims of Ukrainian drone strikes within Russian territory have increased in recent weeks, though Kyiv rarely takes responsibility for such attacks.

Ukrainian authorities have not publicly commented on any of the recent Kursk drone attacks.

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