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Russian-backed officials say they shot down a Ukrainian drone off Crimea

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Smoke rises from the area of the airport outside Kursk, Russia on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Administration of Kursk region
Smoke rises from the area of the airport outside Kursk, Russia on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Administration of Kursk region | License Photo

Dec. 8 (UPI) -- The Russian-appointed governor of Sevastopol said Thursday that Russian forces shot down a Ukrainian drone off the Crimean Peninsula.

"This morning, a ship of the Black Sea Fleet shot down a UAV over the sea," Gov. Mikhail Razvozhaev said on Telegram.

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According to Ukrainian news outlet Krym Kealii, people in Sevastopol reported hearing a sound "similar to the launch of a rocket" followed by "powerful explosion" in the sky over the occupied city, which is home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet.

The report follows a week of Russian missile attacks across Ukraine and strikes on two military facilities deep inside Russian territory that have been attributed to Ukrainian forces.

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The United States has denied any role in Monday and Tuesday's strikes.

"We have neither encouraged nor enabled the Ukrainians to strike inside of Russia," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters Tuesday.

Ukraine has not taken responsibility for the strikes, but on Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted Monday, "The Earth is round -- discovery made by Galileo. Astronomy was not studied in Kremlin, giving preference to court astrologers. If it was, they would know: If something is launched into other countries' airspace, sooner or later unknown flying objects will return to departure point."

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In November, a naval drone attack on the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol damaged several ships and raised concerns among Russian officials that Ukrainian forces could strike deep behind enemy lines. The latest strikes against Russian targets, in combination with the Oct. 8 attack on the Kerch Bridge between Crimea and Russia, have promoted Russian authorities to set up defensive measures.

On Wednesday, a Russian artillery barrage stuck a market in the town of Kurakhove, killing at least 10 people, according to Ukrainian officials.

"The Russian army carried out a very brutal, absolutely deliberate strike at Kurakhove. Precisely at civilians," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a speech following the attack.

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The Ukrainian military announced in a Facebook post Thursday that it is developing 19 drone variants.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government is cracking down on what they characterize as "subversive activities" from people associated with the Orthodox Church.

Authorities announced Wednesday they had raided 13 sites affiliated with the church, as an Orthodox priest was sentenced to 12 years in prison after being found guilty of passing information to Russian forces.

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