Russia’s Black Sea Fleet conducted a missile strike against a military training facility in southern Ukraine, according to Kremlin officials.
"On the evening of April 4, sea-based high-precision long-range weapons near the town of Ochakiv destroyed a training center for Ukrainian Special Operations Forces, which was used, among other things, to accommodate foreign mercenaries," said Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson. Konashenkov added, without elaborating, that Russian forces struck fuel depots in the cities of Krements, Cherkasy, Zaporizhzhia, and Novomoskovsk.
The strike was carried out by an unidentified surface ship belonging to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which reportedly fired a salvo of seven Kalibr cruise missiles at the facility in question. Russian officials did not immediately say if any Ukrainian servicemen or foreign volunteers were killed by the attack.
Russian forces first bombed the Ukrainian naval base of Ochakiv in the opening stages of the Ukraine invasion, seriously wounding at least four soldiers and destroying several pieces of military infrastructure. Russian president Vladimir Putin singled out Ochakiv, known in Russian as Ochakov, in his February 21 speech recognizing the breakaway Ukrainian Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, framing it as a staging point for potential NATO aggression against Russia. “I will add that the Naval Operations Center in Ochakov, built by the Americans, makes it possible to ensure the actions of NATO ships, including the use of high-precision weapons by them against the Russian Black Sea Fleet and our infrastructure along the entire Black Sea coast,” Putin said.
In 2019, the United States announced plans to upgrade the Ochakiv Naval Base. The effort reportedly included reinforcing existing piers and adding new ship repair facilities, as well as maritime operations centers from which NATO and Ukrainian forces could direct exercises and coordinate joint movements. The announcement drew sharp condemnation from the Kremlin, which expressed concerns that the naval base could be used to threaten Russia’s control over the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Earlier this month, the Russian military promised to target and destroy all foreign “mercenaries'' fighting for Ukraine. "We know all locations of foreign mercenaries in Ukraine. More surgical strikes will continue to be delivered against them, like the one carried out on March 13 against the training centers in Starichi and at the Yavorovsky proving ground," Konashenkov said. On March 13, Russian forces struck Ukraine’s Yavoriv military facility, located some fifteen miles from the Polish border, allegedly killing 180 foreign volunteers. The Kremlin previously said that “mercenaries”—the term it uses to describe foreign fighters volunteering for Ukraine—are not covered by the Geneva Convention and thus will not be afforded any of the legal protections governing the treatment of combatants.
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.