Russian warship damaged in Ukraine naval drone attack on naval base Novorossiysk

A Russian warship appeared to have suffered serious damage on Friday after Ukraine attacked one of its main naval bases using naval drones.

Russia’s defense ministry claimed to have foiled the overnight attack on the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, but the fate of one of its warships was in doubt after videos shared on social media and a Ukrainian intelligence source suggested it had suffered damage.

The incident is the latest apparent effort by Ukraine to attack strategic targets inside Russia using drones, a growing campaign that comes as its counteroffensive struggles to make a breakthrough on the battlefield.

The drone attack of the lake

In a statement released early Friday, the Defense Ministry said the naval base in southern Russia was attacked by two unmanned naval drones overnight. The drones were destroyed by ships guarding the outer border of the base, it said.

It did not mention any damage or loss of life due to the incident, which it blamed on Ukraine’s armed forces.

There was no immediate public claim of responsibility from Kyiv, which normally refrains from taking credit for attacks on Russian soil. Moscow usually immediately blames Ukraine for such incidents without providing any evidence.

But Ukrainian social media was abuzz with news of the attack.

Videos circulating online showed a ship resembling the Olenegorsky Gornyak warship being towed back to the port the Russian government said had been attacked.

Using satellite imagery and naval ship tracking data, NBC News was able to confirm that the video was shot in Novorossiysk and showed the same class of warships as the Olenegorsky Gornyak.

A Ukrainian intelligence source said Olenegorsky Gornyak was damaged in an operation carried out by the Security Service of Ukraine, SBU.

About 100 Russian service members were aboard the vessel when it was attacked by a naval drone carrying 450 kg (about 1,000 pounds) of TNT, the source said, without giving details of any casualties.

NBC News could not independently confirm the claims.

A video provided by the source also showed what appeared to be the front end of a naval drone approaching and hitting a ship before the video cuts out.

The Russian landing ship Olenegorsky Gornyak, shown here, docked in St. Petersburg in 2021. Viktor Karasev / Alamy Stock Photo

Ukraine steps up drone strikes

The port city of Novorossiysk is located on the Black Sea in Russia’s Krasnodar region, close to the Russian-occupied Crimea.

The Ministry of Defense website says the naval base there is part of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. It was established in 1994, it said, and before the war in Ukraine served as one of the main outposts for border protection and military transport.

There were no reports of damage to ships in Russian state media hours after the attack, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment when asked about it during his daily call with reporters on Friday, deferring all inquiries to the Defense Ministry.

A nearby oil terminal reported that its infrastructure was not damaged and its operations were unaffected.

The incident comes amid a series of drone attacks in recent months on Russian territory, including three separate drone strikes on the heart of the Russian capital in the past two weeks.

As Ukraine finds itself in the midst of a decisive counteroffensive to recapture occupied land, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned last week that the war was gradually “returning to Russia’s territory — to its symbolic centers and military bases” in what he called an “inevitable , natural and absolutely fair process.”

On Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry stated that three Ukrainian unmanned sea drones attempted to attack two patrol ships in the southwestern Black Sea, but that the attempt was also foiled.

Kiev has been careful not to claim responsibility for the attacks in Russia, but Ukrainian officials often send sarcastic signals in the aftermath.

Hours after the alleged drone strike on Friday, Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, shared a photo on Telegram of a Ukrainian soldier flying a drone with the caption: “Good Ukrainian morning to everyone. And let all that you have planned, fly.”

Zelenskyy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak also commented on Twitter. “What is happening in the Black Sea? #Drones changes the rules of the game…,” he said.

If the damage to the ship is acknowledged by the Kremlin, the attack would be a major boon for Ukraine and another blow to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which famously lost its flagship, the Moscow, to a missile attack by Ukraine just months into the war. .

The sinking of the Moscow was shrouded in secrecy and the exact number of personnel lost remained unclear.

The Kremlin said the ship went down due to a fire on board, not an enemy attack, but it was seen as a significant setback and humiliation for Moscow’s forces at the time.

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