Ukraine updates: Russia, Kyiv dispute Black Sea drone attack

Friday, 4 August 2023 (18:48 IST)
Russian forces said they thwarted a Ukrainian sea drone attack on the Russian Novorossiysk naval base in the Black Sea early Friday.
Novorossiysk is one of the biggest ports in the Black Sea — home to a Russian naval base and a major hub for Russian exports.
Ukraine's intelligence agency confirmed the attack, saying one of Russia's combat ships was also damaged and put out of operation in the strike.
Meanwhile, the Russian military said Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited troops in a combat zone in Ukraine. 
Here's an overview of some of the main stories concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Friday, August 4:
Poland detains Belarusian on suspicion of spying for Russia
Poland has detained a Belarusian man on suspicion of spying for Russia, Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said.
"Belarusian Mikhail A. took part in reconnaissance of military facilities and ports. He also carried out propaganda activities for Russia," Kaminski wrote on X social media platform, formerly known as Twitter.
Kaminski said the man was the 16th person to be detained in connection with an organized spy network working for Russia.
The man arrived in Poland in 2021 and maintained contacts with "citizens of the Russian Federation, with whom he was meeting in Saint Petersburg and Crimea," Kaminski said.
The Polish interior minister alleged the spy network was preparing to carry out acts of sabotage against Ukrainian aid efforts, including derailing trains carrying aid for the war-torn country.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he had "no information" on the matter.
Poland, the largest country on NATO's eastern flank, has raised security concerns due to the possibility of threats from the presence of the Wagner Group in Belarus.
UK Defense Ministry: Russian drones attacking closer to NATO territory
The UK Ministry of Defense said Friday that Moscow's willingness to conduct airstrikes near NATO territory has "evolved" as Russian forces attack a port on the Danube River about 200 meters (about 650 feet) from the Romanian border.
The aim of the attacks, which used Iranian-made kamikaze drones, is to stop international shipping through Ukrainian Danube ports, the ministry added.
"Russia has evolved its risk appetite for conducting strikes near NATO territory," the Defense Ministry wrote in a daily briefing.
A grain silo in the port of Izmail on the Danube was destroyed recently.
Russia canceled an agreement that permitted the export of Ukrainian grain and has since been bombing port infrastructure and storage facilities for agricultural products.
Russia reports strike on Novorossiysk naval base
Russia's Defense Ministry said it thwarted an attack on a naval base in the Black Sea.
"Tonight, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, with the use of two unmanned sea boats, attempted an attack on the Novorossiysk naval base of the Russian Armed Forces," the ministry said.
The ministry said Russian forces destroyed the sea drones. 
The attack temporarily paused all ship movement at the Novorossiysk port, according to the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, which operates an oil terminal there.
Novorossiysk, one of Russia's main commercial ports, is also home to a Russian naval base.
Ukrainian intelligence later confirmed the attack, saying it was executed by Ukrainian forces, according to Reuters news agency.
An official told the news agency that a Russian combat vessel was put out of operation during the strike.
"As a result of the attack, the Olenegorsky Gornyak received a serious breach and currently cannot conduct its combat missions," Reuters quoted the unnamed official as saying.
The news come after a Russian attack on a Ukrainian port on the Danube River temporarily suspended all operations at the port earlier this week.
Ukrainian ports on the Danube served as the main alternative shipping route for grain exports for world markets after Russia quit the Black Sea grain deal last month.
The attack destroyed some 40,000 metric tons of grain bound for export.
The Black Sea handled about 95% of Ukrainian grain exports before Russia’s invasion last year and a UN-brokered agreement — the Black Sea Grain Initiative — allowed the safe passage of agricultural products from Ukrainian ports to the rest of the world.
Both Russia and Ukraine have reported increasing drone attacks since the grain deal was scrapped.
Russia doubles defense spending target to more than $100 billion — report
Russia has doubled its 2023 defense spending target to more than $100 billion (€91 billion), which is a third of all public expenditure, Reuters news agency reported.
Reuters said the document it reviewed said Russia spent 12% more on defense than planned in the first half of 2023 alone.
Russia spent 600 billion rubles more on defense than the 4.98 trillion rubles it had originally aimed for 2023.
Defense spending in the first six months of 2023 amounted to 5.59 trillion rubles —  37% of the total amount of 14.97 trillion rubles spent in the period, the document showed.
Rising costs of war and higher industrial production helped Russia's modest economic recovery this year, but its economy is under strain as a result of falling export revenues.
Russian Defense Minister Shoigu visits troops in Ukraine
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited a combat zone in Ukraine to inspect a command post and meet senior military officers, the army said Friday.
Shoigu "thanked commanders and soldiers... for successful offensive operations" in Lyman in eastern Ukraine.
He was updated on the situation on the front line, the army said, without mentioning the actual day of his visit.
Ukrainian troops have made only incremental gains since launching a counteroffensive in early June, and Putin has repeatedly claimed Ukraine has suffered heavy losses, without offering evidence.
Ukraine has committed thousands of troops on the front line in recent days, according to officials.

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