Ukraine says ‘destroyed’ Russian ship in underwater drone attack off Crimea

Military intelligence releases nighttime video showing sinking of ship it said was the missile boat Ivanovets.

The Ivanovets pictured with another corvette during a Russian Navy Day celebration in the Black Sea
The Russian corvettes Naberezhnye Chelny and Ivanovets pictured in 2019 during Navy Day celebrations in Sevastopol [File: Ekaterina Shtukina/Governmental Press Service PoolSputnik via EPA]

Ukraine has said it used sea drones to attack and destroy a Russian warship in the Black Sea near the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula.

The military intelligence agency, known by its Ukrainian acronym GUR, published a video on Thursday that it said depicted a naval drone attack on the missile-armed corvette Ivanovets the night before.

The grainy footage, running about 2 and a half minutes and accompanied by a dramatic soundtrack, showed a number of explosions, and the ship eventually listing to one side. It ended with the vessel sinking stern-first into the sea.

“As a result of a number of direct hits to the hull, the Russian ship suffered damage incompatible with further movement,” the intelligence agency said in a statement accompanying the video, apparently made up of live feeds from the drones.

The GUR said the attack had been carried out by its Group 13 unit and took place while the Ivanovets was on patrol on Lake Donuzlav in western Crimea. The lake was connected to the Black Sea by a channel in 1961.

There was no official response from Russia whose Black Sea Fleet has come under attack by Ukraine before, most notably with the sinking of the flagship Moskva in April 2022.

On that occasion, Moscow eventually acknowledged the loss of the ship and said the Moskva sank as it was being towed to port after “detonation of ammunition” caused a fire.

Ukraine said it had sunk the Soviet-era ship with a cruise missile, and the United States backed up the claim.

It was not possible to verify the sinking of the Ivanovets, but Russian military bloggers reported the area had come under attack from naval drones during the night, and that the Ivanovets had been hit.

Disinformation has become a key feature of the war, which marks its second anniversary on February 24, and it was not possible to independently verify the footage or claims.

The private security firm Ambrey said Ukraine has used up to six sea drones, each of which usually carry 300 kilogrammes (660 pounds) of explosives, in the attack.

A Western official also backed the Ukrainian account, telling the Associated Press news agency that it was “highly likely that uncrewed surface vessels were responsible for the strike on the Ivanovets”. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence.

The Ukrainian navy said the loss of the Ivanovets, thought to have a crew of about 40 sailors, would be “significant” because Russia has only three ships of the same class in its Black Sea Fleet.

Crimea, which was invaded and annexed by Moscow in 2014, has come under increasing attack by Ukrainian drones and missiles.

On Thursday, Russia said it had destroyed 20 Ukrainian missiles over the area.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies