Ukraine struck a large Russian landing warship in Crimea with cruise missiles in an overnight attack that killed at least one person and could hinder any Russian attempt to seize more Ukrainian territory along the Black Sea coast.
The Russian defence ministry, cited by the Interfax news agency, said Ukraine had used air-launched missiles to attack the Crimean port of Feodosia and that the Novocherkassk large landing ship had been damaged.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu had briefed President Vladimir Putin in detail about the attack, the Kremlin said. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 in a move Kyiv and the West condemned as an illegal seizure.
Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat said he thought it would be hard for the Novocherkassk – which can carry tanks and armoured vehicles and be used to land troops ashore – 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.
Ukraine had used cruise missiles in the attack, without specifying what kind, Ihnat said. Both Britain and France have supplied Kyiv with such missiles.
Russia has hinted it may try to seize more Ukrainian territory along the Black Sea coast. Putin earlier this month said that Odessa, the headquarters of Ukraine’s own navy, was “a Russian city.”
Footage posted on Russian news outlets on Telegram, purportedly from the port, showed powerful explosions detonating and fires burning.
Unverified social media videos purporting to capture the strike showed a vast explosion and ballooning flames lighting up the night sky. An unverified daytime photograph, which Ukrainian bloggers claimed showed the ship’s remains, depicted a charred, elongated clump of debris emerging out of the water by a dock.
Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-installed governor of Crimea, said on Telegram that one person had been killed. The RIA news agency said four people had been injured.
Although a Ukrainian counteroffensive has made little in the way of battlefield gains and the Russian military has regained the initiative in several places, Ukraine has been able to launch a series of attacks on Crimea, the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, inflicting serious damage.
Previous attacks have targeted ships in dry docks, warships moored in the main port of Sevastopol, airfields, the main Black Sea Fleet HQ building, and the bridge which connects southern Russia to Crimea.
Throughout the war, Russia has used its fleet to impede Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea, the main export route for the agriculture and steel exports that formed a significant chunk of the country’s economy.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy quipped on Telegram that his air force had added to Russia’s submarine fleet by damaging the landing ship.
“There will not be a single peaceful place for the occupiers in Ukraine,” Zelenskiy wrote.
The Ukrainian air force said its pilots had attacked Feodosia at about 0230 (0030 GMT), destroying the Novocherkassk.
“And the fleet in Russia is getting smaller and smaller! Thanks to the Air Force pilots and everyone involved for the filigree work!” the commander of Ukraine’s air force, Mykola Oleshchuk, said on Telegram.
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 said Russia 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.
Feodosia, which has a population of around 69,000 people, lies on the southern coast of the Crimean Peninsula.