Ukraine launched a daring attack on December 26th against a key Russian navy landing ship docked in the occupied Crimean port city of Feodosia, causing major damage and casualties. This brazen strike demonstrates Ukraine’s expanding ability to hit high value Russian military targets far from the frontlines with long-range weapons.
According to Ukraine’s air force, fighter jets struck the Russian navy’s ‘Novocherkassk’ Ropucha-class tank landing ship docked at the port.
“Two ships from this project were destroyed simultaneously with the help of drone and missile weapons,” Ukraine’s air force statement said.
Huge explosions and an enormous fireball were observed rising from the dock area in photos and videos circulating on social media following the attack. Russia’s defense ministry acknowledged the ship suffered damage from an airstrike but did not confirm what vessel was hit.
“As a result of a drone attack in the area of the Feodosia sea trade port, a mine sweeper received minor damage,” Russia’s Black Sea Fleet said.
Independent defense analysts assess that Ukraine likely used anti-ship missiles for such a precise strike on the anchored ship. Using older Tochka ballistic missiles or newer Hrim-2 missiles obtained from the West, Ukraine could have launched them from land-based systems potentially over 100 miles away.
Russia’s navy uses Feodosia port as a key resupply hub for its Black Sea operations. The loss or serious damage of the large tank landing ship reduces Russia’s capacity to quickly move ammunition and reinforcements by sea to occupied parts of southern Ukraine.
The governor of Russian-controlled Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, said one dock worker was killed and two others injured by debris from the blasts. He described the situation in the port area as “calm” and claimed no significant damage beyond the one ship.
Ukraine’s Striking Capability Strengthens
This latest attack comes on the heels of Ukraine utilizing drones to hit military bases deep inside Russian territory in recent weeks. It is further evidence of Ukraine’s determination to take the fight directly to the Russian forces – on land, sea and in the air.
Ukraine’s ability to accurately strike high value military targets hundreds of miles from current ground fighting likely factors into both sides’ strategic and diplomatic calculations going into 2023.
Impact on Russia’s Navy
The damaged Novocherkassk ship had only recently undergone repairs from battle damage earlier in the war. The Ropucha-class tank landing ships like it play an integral role rapidly transporting Russian tanks, armored vehicles and hundreds of troops from bases across the Black Sea directly onto land.
Russia’s Black Sea fleet has already lost its flagship Moskva missile cruiser along with several other surface combatants since the February invasion. The loss of additional amphibious ships further erodes Russian efforts to reinforce and resupply its troops in southern Ukraine.
Reaction from Zelenskyy
In his nightly address after the attack, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy boasted about the successful strike but did not claim direct credit:
“Today was not a bad day and mostly sunny on our state’s territory… Unfortunately, it was cloudy in Crimea. Although it was also warm.”
Zelenskyy has repeatedly pledged to recapture all occupied Ukrainian territory including Crimea, which Russia seized back in 2014.
What Comes Next
More long-range strikes – Buoyed by this latest success, Ukraine is likely to conduct additional deep strikes against Russian military assets using newly acquired Western weapons. Key targets include air bases, command centers, ammunition depots and naval facilities.
Russian retaliation feared – Angered by Ukraine’s ability to penetrate Russian defenses, Putin could retaliate with another large scale missile barrage against Ukraine’s electrical infrastructure similar to attacks in October and November.
Impact on diplomacy – Ukraine’s strike comes as the G20 leaders call for de-escalation. However, Zelenskyy may feel emboldened to continue fighting given the strengthening military capability demonstrated.
While Russia maintains overall military superiority, Ukraine displays growing skill utilizing smaller scale lethal attacks to undermine Russia’s military advantage. As the war stretches into 2023, Ukraine’s expanding ability to strike occupied territories represents a significant new factor.
Naval Vessels Lost Comparison
|Dec 26, 2023
|Apr 13, 2022
|Mar 24, 2022
|Tank Landing Ship
|Mar 24, 2022
|Tank Landing Ship
|Mar 24, 2022
This table compares naval losses suffered by Russia and Ukraine during the war. Russia has lost far more vessels, including one of its flagship cruisers, dealing a major blow to its Black Sea fleet capabilities. The loss of the Novocherkassk landing ship on December 26th in the Crimea attack further degrades Russia’s capacity to reinforce its troops in southern Ukraine.
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