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Russia reports Ukraine drone strike on its tanker near Crimea bridge

A view of the Crimea Bridge, that connects the Russian mainland with the Crimean peninsula. (Photo by TASS news agency)

A Ukrainian drone has reportedly struck a Russian tanker in the black Sea near the Crimean Bridge connecting Russia and the peninsula, with Crimean officials denying claims that the bridge was hit in the attack. 

The tanker was damaged in the attack and two tugboats were dispatched to help it, Russia's official TASS news agency reported on Saturday, citing the Marine Rescue Coordination Center in the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk.

"We can say that the tanker is damaged in the (Kerch) strait, only on the south side," the rescue center said.

"They will deal with it now on whether to take it under tow or not. It is standing at anchor for the moment. The machine room suffered some damage, not too badly," it added.

The news agency further noted that no fuel had been spilled from the ship, adding that the 11 crew of the tanker are safe.

Traffic was halted for a time on the bridge but later resumed.

Local officials in Crimea further stated that explosions were heard near the bridge early in the day, insisting however that the blasts were linked to the attack on the tanker and had nothing to do with the bridge.

"Once again, there was no direct attack on the Crimea bridge and there was no explosion in the immediate vicinity," said Oleg Kryuchkov, an adviser to Crimea's governor.

Vladimir Rogov, an official in Ukraine's southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia, also posted an audio clip in which the vessel had requested a tow from tugboats.

He also posted pictures of “shattered fixtures and equipment” inside the vessels on the Telegram messaging app.

The latest development comes a day after Kiev claimed it had carried out a seaborne drone strike on a Russian navy ship in Novorossiysk.

Ukraine has repeatedly used naval drones laden with explosives to attack Russian naval fleets that dominate the Black Sea, prompting Moscow to block Ukrainian grain exports through its favored export route.

Crimea has repeatedly been targeted by Ukrainian drone attacks since Moscow launched its military operation against Kiev in February last year.

Russia launched what it referred to as a "special military operation" in Ukraine to counter persisting eastward expansion of the US-led NATO military alliance and to halt Kiev’s persecution of the pro-Russian population in eastern Ukraine.

Moscow also blames Ukraine for attacks against targets inside Russia, though Kiev has never officially taken responsibility for such attacks as a matter of state policy.

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