Ukraine destroys Russian warship in Crimea in major blow to Black Sea fleet

By Isaac M December 26, 2023

Ukraine has said it has destroyed a Russian warship in occupied Crimea. It came as top Kremlin officials sat down for an end-of-year review of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Kyiv’s air force announced that it had hit a landing ship in the southeastern port of Feodosia in the early hours of Tuesday morning, marking another successful attack on Vladimir Putin’s prized Black Sea fleet.

Unverified footage posted by Ukrainian air force commander Lt Gen Mykola Oleschuk showed a 10-metre-high fireball erupting from the area where the 110-metre-long Novocherkassk ship was located.

A huge fireball could be seen in the port of Feodosia, where the Novocherkassk was docked


The air force claimed the attack took place at roughly 2.30am local time, with local reports suggesting multiple explosions rocked the small port area for roughly an hour.

Sergei Aksyonov, the Kremlin-installed head of Crimea, said that one person had been killed and two people injured in the attack. He added that a number of buildings were damaged.

The Russian Ministry of Defence later admitted that the warship had been damaged by plane-launched guided missiles but stopped short of confirming it had been destroyed. It claimed that two Ukrainian fighter jets were destroyed by anti-aircraft fire during the attack.

Smoke is seen rising above a damaged warship following a Ukrainian attack in the Russian-occupied Black Sea port


Thord Are Iversen, a defence analyst specialising in the Russian navy, said he believed the warship had been destroyed beyond repair.

He told The Independent: “I think whatever the Novocherkassk was loaded with, likely munitions of some sort, blew up following the missile hit and the ship is a total loss.”

A Ukrainian military official said the Novocherkassk, which was partially damaged in March 2022, had been used recently to transport weapons and soldiers to the Zaporizhzhia region, which is partly held by Russian forces. Satellite imagery showed the vessel arrived in Feodosia in September this year.

The attack is yet another high point in a months-long missile assault on the Russian naval ports across Crimea, which has forced the Black Sea fleet to partially retreat.

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu was forced to brief Vladimir Putin on the damaged warship hours before his end-of-year review of the war in Ukraine


In September, a Ukrainian missile attack destroyed the headquarters of the fleet in the port city of Sevastopol in Crimea, reportedly killing 34 naval personnel. A number of Russian ships, including another landing vessel, were damaged that month.

Dozens of Russian vessels were subsequently moved in October to the port of Novorosso, more than a hundred miles to the east of Crimea.

Lauding the attack as a sign that the war in Ukraine had not reached a stalemate, British defence minister Grant Shapps claimed Kyiv had now destroyed 20 per cent of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet over the past four months.

“This latest destruction of Putin’s navy demonstrates that those who believe there’s a stalemate in the Ukraine war are wrong!” he wrote on Twitter/X.

“They haven’t noticed that over the past four months 20 per cent of Russia’s Black Sea fleet has been destroyed.”

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, meanwhile, joked that the ship had been turned into a submarine.

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu, a key figure in the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, had to brief Vladimir Putin on the attacks on Tuesday morning, only hours before an end-of-year review of what Putin refers to as the “special military operation”.

During the review, he was quoted as saying that the main goal of the year had been to disrupt the Ukrainian counteroffensive, which was launched in June.

He said that Russian forces, in part due to extensive defensive lines built in the five months running up to the counteroffensive, had successfully repelled the attack and were now beginning to seize the initiative.

Over the weekend, Kyiv rejected claims by Mr Shoigu that Russian forces had gained control of the key eastern Ukrainian city of Marinka, which has been a flashpoint of the front line for months.


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