Russia confirms Ukraine destroyed its warship in Crimea attack

One person reported killed in attack that targeted the Novocherkassk, which Ukraine said was being used to transport Russian drones.

Black smoke rising from a ship at port. The sky behind is pale blue and orange.
Smoke rising above a damaged warship after the Ukrainian attack on Russian-occupied southern Crimea [Telegram/@VentdeCrimee via AFP]

Russia has acknowledged a Ukrainian attack has damaged a warship in the occupied Crimean port of Feodosia in what Ukraine and its Western allies called a major setback for the Russian navy.

Ukraine’s air force said earlier that it had “destroyed” the Novocherkassk landing ship, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy joking on social media that the vessel had now joined “the Russian underwater Black Sea fleet”.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu informed President Vladimir Putin “about the damage to our large landing ship” in what a “very detailed report”, the president’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

The Novocherkassk is a large landing ship that can be used for transporting soldiers as well as tanks and armoured vehicles, and Ukraine said it attacked the vessel at a base in the southern coast of Russian-occupied Crimea. Kyiv said it suspected the ship was transporting Iranian-made explosive drones that Russia has used regularly to attack Ukraine since it began its full scale invasion in February 2022.

One person was killed and four were injured in the attack, the Moscow-installed governor of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, said, adding that six buildings had been damaged and their residents evacuated.

Aksyonov said the strike triggered a fire that had been brought under control.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 in a move Ukraine and the West condemned as illegal, and has not been internationally recognised.

Feodosia, which has a population of about 69,000 people.

Ukraine’s range ‘increasing’

Ukrainian officials celebrated the attack, which comes amid fierce fighting on the front line in the country’s east.

Ukrainian commander Mykola Oleshchuk shared a video of an explosion at the Feodosia naval base and wrote: “The fleet in Russia is getting smaller and smaller! Thanks to the Air Force pilots and everyone involved for the filigree work!”

On Telegram, Zelenskyy wrote: “I am grateful to our Air Force for the impressive replenishment of the Russian underwater Black Sea fleet with another vessel. The occupiers will not have a single peaceful place in Ukraine.”

The Black Sea, which Ukraine needs to export its grain, has been a key battleground in the continuing war.

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based in the port of Sevastopol and Moscow has used the fleet to fire missiles at Ukrainian cities and to blockade Ukraine’s coastline.

Ukraine has stepped up attacks on Crimea, helping it win back limited control of the Black Sea and, at times, push Russian warships further east.

Yuriy Ihnat, Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson, said he thought it would be hard for the Novocherkassk to re-enter service.

“We can see how powerful the explosion was, what the detonation was like. After that, it’s very hard for a ship to survive, because this was not a rocket, this is the detonation of munitions,” he told Radio Free Europe.

Claims and counterclaims

Ukraine and Russia have often exaggerated the losses they claim to have inflicted on the other since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

In recent days, Moscow has claimed to have taken control of the eastern city of Maryinka, which Kyiv has denied.

Ukraine and Russia have also each claimed success in shooting down the other’s fighter planes, with each side denying any losses.

In April 2022, Ukraine sank cruiser Moskva, the Soviet-era flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

Moscow said “a detonation of ammunition” triggered a fire and forced the crew to evacuate, and the ship sank as it was being towed to port.

Sergei Markov, a former Kremlin adviser, said on Telegram it was obvious that Russia would not release detailed information about the attack at a time of war, but that it needed to do more to protect its assets in Crimea.

“It’s clear that Crimea’s air defence systems must be strengthened. And it is clear that it [Ukraine] needs to be deprived of the opportunity to hit Russia,” Markov said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies