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Russian Ropucha-class landing vessel Olenegorskiy Gornyak, which was reportedly hit by a surface drone on Aug. 4, "represents the largest Russian naval vessel seriously damaged or destroyed since the sinking of the cruiser Moskva," in April last year, according to the U.K. Defense Ministry.
CNN and several Ukrainian media outlets cited unnamed sources in Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU), saying that the operation was a joint endeavor between the SBU and the Ukrainian Navy. According to these reports, a Ukrainian surface drone carrying 450 kilograms of explosives collided with Olenegorskiy Gornyak, causing significant damage.
In its latest update, the U.K. Defense Ministry said the Olenegorskiy Gornyak, which had been routinely assigned to the Russian Northern Fleet, "has augmented the Black Sea Fleet since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has often ferried military and civilian traffic between Russia and occupied Crimea when the Kerch Bridge has been disrupted due to attacks."
The 3,600 tonnes and 113 meter-long vessel "almost certainly suffered serious damage after being struck near the Black Sea Fleet’s Novorossiysk base," the ministry said.
"This is a significant blow to the (Russian) Black Sea Fleet, which previously relocated most of its units to Novorossiysk due to the high threat to Sevastopol," the ministry added.
In the early hours on Aug. 5, explosions were also reported near the Crimean Bridge. Moscow Times reported via its Telegram channel that the naval drone attack on the Kerch Strait could have potentially damaged the Russian SIG chemical tanker.
Following the reported attacks, the SBU chief Vasyl Maliuk made a statement effectively admitting that Ukraine was behind the attacks. He said such attacks are "absolutely logical" and "completely legal."
"Any (explosions) that happen to the Russian ships or the Crimean Bridge is an absolutely logical and effective step in relation to the enemy," Maliuk said, as quoted by the SBU Telegram channel.
"Moreover, such special operations are conducted in the territorial waters of Ukraine and are completely legal," he said.
While Kyiv does not generally claim responsibility for explosions reported on the occupied peninsula, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in late July that Ukraine will continue to attack targets in Crimea to reduce Russia's fighting capacity and "help save the lives of Ukrainians."
Moskva, the flagship of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, sank on April 14, 2022. Ukraine said it had hit the ship with two R-360 Neptune anti-ship missiles, while Russia claimed the ship sank after a fire.
Moskva was the largest Russian warship to be sunk since World War II and the first Russian flagship sunk since the 1905 Russo-Japanese War.