Crimean sunbathers struck by deadly shrapnel shower from Ukrainian missile

A still from the shocking video
A still from the shocking video

Shrapnel from an intercepted US-made missile fired by Ukraine hit a beach packed with sunbathing tourists in occupied Crimea on Sunday.

Russian officials said at least five people, including three children, had died of shrapnel wounds – and they expected the death toll to rise.

A video shot by a tourist on the beach shows a missile coming into view above the nearby city of Sevastopol and then exploding. Shrapnel crashes into the sand in a succession of thuds and bangs, and tourists scream and run.

“Run!” one of the tourists shouts.

Two other videos show tourists using sun loungers to carry injured people off the beach and women in bikinis frantically administering first aid to an injured tourist as his blood drips onto the sand.

One of the dead has been named as the nine-year-old daughter of the deputy mayor of a town in the north of the occupied peninsula. Russia’s health ministry said 124 people were injured in the incident, including 27 children.

“The entire health care system has been mobilised. Doctors and medical staff are at work. The operating rooms are deployed,” said Mikhail Razvozhaev, the mayor of Sevastopol.

Attacks on civilian targets are rare in Russia or Russian-occupied territory but Ukrainian missile fragments have been known to fall away from military targets. The beach is about 10 minutes from the Belbek airfield, which Russia uses to launch fighter jets that regularly target civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.

Russian air defence

Russia’s ministry of defence said its air-defence systems had intercepted one of five US-made ATACMS long-range artillery rockets fired by Ukraine at Crimea. It blamed the US for the attack and said that the intercepted missile had been armed with a cluster munition warhead that exploded over the beach.

“Responsibility for the deliberate missile attack on civilians in Sevastopol lies primarily with Washington, which supplied these weapons to Ukraine, as well as the Kyiv regime,” it said. “Such actions will not go unanswered.”

Another still from a video
A video still appears to show injured people

Vladimir Putin has not commented but Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said the Russian president had been informed of the attack and was in “constant contact” with his senior military, emergency and health-care staff.

Many Russian tourists have shrugged off the dangers of Ukrainian missile attacks to take advantage of discounted package holidays to Crimea, famed across Russia for its golden beaches, clear water and blue skies.

At the time of the attack, the popular beaches outside Sevastopol, the biggest city in Crimea, were crowded at the start of the holiday season with families and children.

‘I had eight wounded’

Irina Frolova was swimming in the pool of a nearby hotel when she heard the Russian air-defence systems hit the Ukrainian missile, followed by screams from the beach.

She said she rushed her children to their hotel room and then ran down to help.

“I went to the beach because I’m a medic,” she told the Izvestia newspaper. “There were a lot of wounded people there and by the time I arrived, they had already been taken off the beach to the parking lot. I had eight wounded people.”

Ms Frolova then described how a woman died in front of her. “There were mostly shrapnel wounds, a woman was hit in the neck by a double shrapnel. She died,” she said.

Concerns in Washington

Ukraine frequently targets Sevastopol, the main base for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, but it usually fires its missiles at night and not in the middle of the day.

Russia’s Ministry of Defence said that the missile attack on Sunday had occurred just after midday. Ukraine has not commented but the strike will reignite concerns in Washington about relaxing rules it has laid out to Ukraine over how it uses US-made kit to hit Russia.

Ukraine wants to be given more freedom to strike targets deeper in Russia but Washington is concerned this will escalate the war.

Washington considers Crimea, annexed by the Kremlin in 2014, to be part of Ukraine and allows Ukrainian commanders to strike it with US-made missiles.