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Ukrainian missiles hit two Russian ships at Crimean port of Sevastopol

Ukraine has hit two Russian ships at the Crimean port of Sevastopol, hampering Vladimir Putin's hold over the Black Sea, the UK's Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed.

The two large landing ships were struck by missiles early on Sunday, the Ukrainian military said.

They also damaged a communication centre and Russian navy infrastructure.

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Mr Shapps hailed it as a "historic moment for Ukraine" and a "further shift in Black Sea dynamics".

"The destruction of these key Russian vessels marks a significant milestone," he said.

"In plain English, it means that Putin can no longer exercise safely in the Black Sea, even though the Russian fleet has operated there since 1873."

Russia illegally annexed the peninsula in 2014.

Since the Russian invasion in 2022, Ukraine has repeatedly claimed it plans to take it back.

Elsewhere, Ukraine claimed it intercepted Russian missiles shot over Kyiv overnight, while Moscow said the number of people confirmed deaths in Friday's attack on a concert hall has risen to 137.

Huge strategic and historical importance

Crimea, and Sevastopol more specifically, is of huge historical and strategic importance to Russia.

According to military and defence analyst Sean Bell: "Most military analysts believe that liberating Crimea would be a very difficult military challenge for Ukraine.

"However, if it was to focus its offensive military action on the Crimean peninsula, it could force Russia to reassess its strategy."

Since the start of the war, Ukraine has hit the Kerch road and rail bridge that connects Russia and Crimea and launched repeated strikes on Russia's Black Sea Fleet - despite not having an official naval force itself.

According to a Ukrainian military spokesperson: "The defence forces of Ukraine successfully hit the Azov and Yamal large landing ships, a communications centre and also several infrastructure facilities of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in temporarily occupied Crimea."

The Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev, said on Telegram that a 65-year-old man had been killed and that three homes, and a number of vehicles, were damaged in the missile strikes.

His statement said Russian air defences had shot down more than 10 missiles on Sunday.