Ukraine claimed a late Christmas present on December 26: A Russian landing ship based in Crimea.
The Novocherkassk (named for a city at the intersection of Rivers in Rostov Oblast) is a 370-foot landing ship. It serves primarily to move troops and supplies during amphibious assaults. Russia claims that it hit two Su-24 jets involved in the attack. But Ukraine’s claims have video corroboration, and Russia’s, so far, do not.
The video from Crimea, linked above, shows a raging fire followed by a massive explosion, the kind that makes it look like daytime for a few seconds.
The Russian Novocherkassk
The Russian ship Novocherkassk was at Feodosia on the southeast coast of Crimea when it was hit. Russia admits that the ship was damaged as well as at least six nearby buildings. It claims that one person died and four suffered injuries in the attack.
If the explosion in the video shows a direct hit on the Novocherkassk, it would seem likely that the damage is severe or that the ship is lost. Explosions often look more destructive than they are, but the tower of flames in the video was possibly hundreds of feet high. Missiles rarely release that much flame. If the fire came from the ship, then it came from a secondary explosion, potentially from the fuel or cargo.
But it is possible that the flames came from a nearby structure or another fuel source.
If the ship was destroyed, it represents another embarrassment for the Black Sea fleet as well as another supply win for Ukraine. Currently, Russia struggles to move supplies from mainland Russia to Crimea and Kherson Oblast. Supply ships can shuttle some supplies across the water, alleviating the need for trucks. Indeed, Ukraine claims the ship was carrying drones destined for the front when it was hit.
The strike is reminiscent of the near-destruction of the Olenegorsky Gornyak, another 370-foot landing ship, earlier this year. The Black Sea fleet had 11 of the large landing ships at the start of the war. The Olenegorsky Gornyak is unlikely to be repaired in time to re-join the war, and it appears likely the Novocherkassk is destroyed or similarly damaged, bringing Russia’s landing ships in the Black Sea down to 9.
Black skid of Crimea
Crimea was the crown jewel of Russia’s ill-gotten gains from its 2014 invasion and annexation, a much more successful endeavour than the 2020 full-scale invasion.
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