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News / Nation & World

Ukrainian military says it sank a Russian landing ship in the Black Sea

By ILLIA NOVIKOV, Associated Press
Published: February 14, 2024, 10:45am

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s military said Wednesday it used high-tech naval drones to sink a Russian landing ship in the Black Sea, a report that has not been confirmed by Russian authorities.

The Caesar Kunikov amphibious ship sank 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) off Alupka, a city on the southern edge of the Crimean Peninsula that Moscow annexed in 2014, Ukraine’s General Staff said. It said the ship can carry 87 crew members. The ship was also transporting ammunition, a Ukrainian official said.

Sinking the vessel would be another embarrassing blow for the Russian Black Sea fleet and a significant success for Ukraine 10 days before the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the claim during a conference call with reporters Wednesday. He said questions should be addressed to the Russian military.

Several Russian military bloggers confirmed the attack on the ship but stopped short of confirming that it had been sunk.

Ukraine has moved onto the defensive in the war, hindered by low ammunition supplies and a shortage of personnel, but has kept up its strikes behind the largely static 1,500-kilometer (930-mile) front line.

It is the second time in two weeks that Ukrainian forces have said they sank a Russian vessel in the Black Sea. Last week, they published a video that they said showed naval drones assaulting the Russian missile-armed corvette Ivanovets.

Ukraine’s Military Intelligence, known by its Ukrainian acronym GUR, said its special operations unit “Group 13” sank the Caesar Kunikov using advanced Magura V5 sea drones on Wednesday. Explosions damaged the vessel on its left side, it said, though a heavily edited video it released was unclear. The same unit also struck on Feb. 1, according to officials.

GUR’s Andrii Yusov declined to say how many drones were deployed. But he told reporters that the operation took “a long time to prepare — routes are tracked, data is collected.”

The private intelligence firm Ambrey said the video showed that at least three drones conducted the attack and that the ship likely sank after listing heavily on its port side.

The Caesar Kunikov probably was part of the Russian fleet escorting merchant vessels that call at Crimean ports, Ambrey said.

The landing ship can carry tanks, troops and other cargo to support amphibious assaults, with doors in the bow that open onto land without the ship needing to dock.

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Ukrainian attacks on Russian aircraft and ships in the Black Sea have helped push Moscow’s naval forces back from the coast, allowing Kyiv to increase crucial exports of grain and other goods through its southern ports.

A new generation of unmanned weapons systems has become a centerpiece of the war, both at sea and on land.

The Magura V5 drone, which looks like a sleek black speedboat, was unveiled last year. It reportedly has a top speed of 42 knots (80 kph, 50 mph) and a payload of 320 kilograms (700 pounds).

The Russian military did not immediately comment on the claimed sinking, saying only that it downed six Ukrainian drones over the Black Sea overnight.

Caesar Kunikov, for whom the Russian vessel was named, was a World War II hero of the Soviet Union for his exploits and died on Feb. 14, the same day as the Ukrainian drone strike, in 1943.

In other developments, an overnight Russian attack on the town of Selydove in the eastern Donetsk region struck a medical facility and a residential building, killing a child and a pregnant woman, Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said on social media. Three other children were wounded, he said.

Selydove is just 25 kilometers (16 miles) from the front line.

Nine Ukrainian civilians were killed and at least 25 people wounded by Russian shelling over the previous 24 hours, the president’s office said Wednesday.

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