Ukraine fired ten cruise missiles against a marine facility in the Russian-occupied Crimean city of Sevastopol early on Wednesday.
Seven projectiles were shot down but three managed to hit their targets, the Russian defence ministry said in a statement.
“As a result of being hit by enemy cruise missiles, two ships undergoing repairs were damaged,” the ministry said.
In a separate statement later on Wednesday, the defence ministry clarified that both vessels were military and that they would be “fully restored” and returned to active duty.
The Sergo Ordzhonikidze shipyard that was targeted is a known repair and maintenance facility of the Russian navy.
According to Russian bloggers, the landing ship Minsk and the submarine Rostov-on-Don received “varying degrees of damage” while in dry dock. A fire is furthermore said to have broken out at the facility and 24 people were injured — but apparently not gravely.
Blogger Rybar reported that the missiles that hit the targets were British-made Storm Shadows.
More such attacks are likely if the US makes good on plans to provide Ukraine with ATACMS missiles, which have a range of up to 300 kilometres (190 miles).
Escalation in the Black Sea makes a resumption of Ukrainian seaborn grain exports unlikely and may also pose a threat to Russia’s ongoing vibrant wheat and grain exports through the Black Sea.
Ukraine’s attack is a response to repeated Russian strikes against Ukrainian port infrastructure, both in the major ports of Odesa and in smaller ones further south by the Danube River.
Russian attacks resumed early on Wednesday on the Ukrainian ports of Reni and Izmail, authorities of which reported that six people were injured.
Russia has multiplied strikes against such infrastructure after 17 July, when it withdrew from a UN-led safe corridor scheme for the export of Ukrainian grain. Moscow mostly uses drones in these attacks but occasionally also missiles.
A UN official condemned the Russian campaign on Wednesday.
“It is shocking but since 17 July there has been almost one attack every other day hitting vital port and grain facilities in Ukraine... this must stop,” the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine Denise Brown said in a statement.
The UK government claimed earlier this week that that one Russian missile attack on 24 August on Odesa had actually targeted a Liberian-flagged commercial vessel, even though it failed to hit it.
Russian officials have not commented so far on the UK claims.
Russian officials and bloggers have justified some of the strikes against Ukrainian ports with the argument that silos, and sometimes even ships, are used to assemble and launch sea drones against the Russian navy.
Ukraine, on its part, has not been sitting idly.
Kyiv has repeatedly sent sea drones to hit Russian warships and Kyiv’s attacks actually account for the only confirmed hit so far against a commercial vessel underway in the area.
On 5 August, a sea drone damaged the 6,619-dwt product tanker SIG (built 2014), which was reportedly carrying fuel for the Russian military.