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Russia confirms its landing ship hit by Ukrainian missile strike in occupied Crimea (UPDATED)

by Rachel Amran and Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk December 26, 2023 4:33 AM 4 min read
Aftermath of the attack on a Russian ship in Russian-occupied Feodosia in eastern Crimea in the early hours of Dec. 26. (Photo: Ukrainska Pravda / Crimean Telegram channels)
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Russia's Defense Ministry confirmed that the Russian landing ship Novocherkassk, docked at Feodosia in occupied Crimea, had been "damaged" by a Ukrainian missile strike in the early hours of Dec. 26, in a statement reported by the Russian state-run media outlet TASS.  

Ukrainian Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk announced that the ship had been struck earlier on Dec. 26, but implied it was destroyed, not damaged, which appears to be backed by the videos from the scene.

"And the fleet of Russia is getting smaller and smaller," he said. "This time, the large landing ship Novocherkassk...Thanks to the Air Force pilots and everyone involved!"

Oleschchuk also shared a video of a large explosion, implied to be related to the strike on the Novocherkassk.

Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Yurii Ihnat said to RFE/RL that the ship had been struck by more than one cruise missile. He noted that Ukraine possesses both Storm Shadow and Scalp missiles provided by the U.K. and France, which have the capability of striking occupied Crimea. Storm Shadow missiles were used in an attack in September on the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in the Crimean city of Sevastopol.

Ihnat added that the size of the explosion indicated that something significant had exploded due to the strikes, likely ammunition.

U.K. Defense Secretary Grant Shapps weighed in on the news, saying, "This latest destruction of (Russian leader Vladimir) Putin's navy demonstrates that those who believe there's a stalemate in the Ukraine war are wrong! They haven't noticed that over the past four months, 20% of Russia's Black Sea Fleet has been destroyed."

The Russian landing ship Novocherkassk of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in 2019. (Ulf Mauder/picture alliance via Getty Images)

At around 3 a.m. local time, Crimean Telegram channels reported explosions in the area of ​​Feodosia in eastern Crimea. The Telegram channels claimed that a ship with Iranian ammunition was reportedly blown up and a fire broke out in the port.

According to Russian-affiliated media, residents reported hearing loud bangs, and seeing plumes of smoke, and traffic on the Crimean bridge was blocked.

Sergey Aksyonov, the head of Russian occupation authorities in Crimea, said that one person had been killed in the attack, and two others were injured. Several nearby buildings were also damaged. Russian media reported that Putin was informed of the "damage" to the ship.

Russian proxy authorities later revised the number of injured to four.

The Novocherkassk is a mid-size vessel with a length of almost 113 meters, designed for amphibious landings, and can carry armored vehicles, according to a U.S. military factsheet cited by CNN. It has a crew of 87 and can host almost 240 personnel.

Ukraine's General Staff said the ship had previously been damaged by a strike near the Ukrainian port city of Berdiansk in March 2022.

Ukraine has repeatedly struck Russia's Black Sea fleet since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, including the sinking of the flagship cruiser Moskva in April 2022 and a devastating missile attack on the fleet's headquarters in occupied Crimea that reportedly killed more than 30 officers.

Historic loss of flagship deals humiliating blow to Russia’s naval power
The Russian-Ukrainian war has produced yet another hallmark event in the history of warfare. On April 14, after 49 days of Russia’s all-out war, Ukraine inflicted a devastating blow upon the Kremlin’s pride and the symbol of its naval power in the Black Sea. Missile cruiser Moskva, the

U.K. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said in October that Ukraine's successful attacks had led to a "functional defeat" of the Russian Navy in the Black Sea.

President Volodymyr Zelensky predicted in October that Ukraine would soon have full fire control over occupied Crimea, citing the widespread failure of Russian air defenses in the peninsula.

He also noted that Russia's Black Sea Fleet has suffered such significant losses that a new naval base is planned to open in Abkhazia, a Russian-occupied region of Georgia located on the Black Sea, in order to move ships "as far as possible from Ukrainian missiles and naval drones."

In the report confirming the damage to the Novocherkassk, the Russian Defense Ministry also claimed that two Ukrainian SU-24 fighter jets were shot down 125 kilometers northeast of Mykolaiv. There was no evidence provided to support the assertion.

In comments to RFE/RL, Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Yurii Ihnat denied that the fighter jets were shot down.

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