Ukraine has claimed responsibility for a daring attack on a Russian Navy landing ship docked in the occupied Crimean port city of Feodosia. The strikes demonstrate Ukraine’s expanding ability to hit high value Russian targets far from the frontlines with precision guided missiles.
Missile Strike Badly Damages Russian Landing Ship
On December 26th, Ukraine used drones and missiles to strike the Russian Navy’s
Novocherkassk large landing ship docked in Feodosia (1). Videos shared on social media show a fireball erupting from the docked warship following an explosion (2). Russia’s Defense Ministry acknowledged the ship suffered damage, without elaborating on the extent (3).
Independent analyses based on satellite photos show the
Novocherkassk suffered catastrophic damage. Its superstructure and landing deck were shredded by multiple missile strikes (4). Unconfirmed reports suggest up to a third of its crew may be dead or missing (5).
Novocherkassk was designed to transport tanks and landing forces for beach assaults. Its destruction further erodes Russia’s capacity to conduct major amphibious operations (6).
| Key Facts |
|Ship Type| Ropucha-class tank landing ship|
|Displacement| 4,000 tons|
|Crew| Up to 340|
|Status| Irreparably damaged|
Missiles Likely Fired From Ukrainian Territory
Ukraine is being coy about exactly how the attack was carried out. President Zelenskyy stated cryptically “We will not name the specific weapons with which it was carried out so as not to disturb the plans of the Russian army regarding de-occupation.” (7)
Military analysts say it is likely Ukraine used long range Storm Shadow/SCALP cruise missiles fired from Ukrainian-controlled territory hundreds of kilometers away (8). Storm Shadow missiles have ranges exceeding 500km, enabling Ukraine to hit the Russian fleet sheltering in occupied Crimea without breaching Russia’s dense anti-air defenses in the peninsula.
The attack demonstrates Ukraine’s improving ability to precisely strike high value strategic targets deep in Russian occupied territories. This forces Russia to allocate more resources to defending rear areas rather than supporting offensive operations. (9)
Putin Forced to Withdraw Ships From Crimea
In response to the attack, Russia is withdrawing its remaining warships from Crimean ports to bases further away from the frontlines (10).
Satellite photos show at least two ships, the minesweeper
Vice Admiral Zakharin and tank landing ship
Saratov, have left Feodosia since the missile strike. (11)
This reduces Russia’s ability to support operations in southern Ukraine. Ships will require longer trips to deploy landing forces, making them more vulnerable to attacks. (12)
Three Key Ships Now Lost
Novocherkassk strike caps a disastrous six month period for Russia’s Black Sea fleet. Ukraine has now destroyed three key warships that Russia relies upon for amphibious assaults.
This includes Russia’s flagship missile cruiser
Moskva, sunk in April, and the landing ship
Saratov, destroyed in a Ukrainian attack on Berdiansk port in March (13).
With its amphibious assault capacity now severely degraded, Russia will struggle to capture more Ukrainian territory or launch new offensives.
This attack shows Russia is highly vulnerable to Ukrainian long range precision strikes, even in areas thought to be secure like Crimea.
Ukraine will likely conduct further deep strikes against high value military targets in occupied regions. Potential targets include Russian air bases, bridges, command centers and ammunition dumps. (14)
To mitigate this threat, Russia may be forced to devote more resources to defending rear areas rather than supporting offensive combat operations. But dispersed targets like bridges and rail lines are difficult to fully protect over vast occupied territories.
Ultimately, the onus remains on Western nations to supply Ukraine with long range precision guided missiles enabling it to continue interdicting Russian military transport and logistics. (15) This will degrade Russia’s ability to sustain major offensives, helping Ukraine regain occupied territories.
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