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Watch Ukraine blow up Russian ship in Crimea

Ukraine claimed a late Christmas present on December 26: A Russian landing ship based in Crimea.
Logan Nye Avatar
Novocherkassk (BDK-46) is a large landing ship of Project 775 (775 / II) of Ropucha class, which is in service with the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Navy. Sevastopol bay George Chernilevsky/Wikimedia Commons

Ukraine claimed a late Christmas present on December 26: A Russian landing ship based in Crimea.

The Novocherkassk (named for a city at the intersection of Rivers in Rostov Oblast) is a 370-foot landing ship. It serves primarily to move troops and supplies during amphibious assaults. Russia claims that it hit two Su-24 jets involved in the attack. But Ukraine’s claims have video corroboration, and Russia’s, so far, do not.

The video from Crimea, linked above, shows a raging fire followed by a massive explosion, the kind that makes it look like daytime for a few seconds.

The Russian Novocherkassk

The Russian ship Novocherkassk was at Feodosia on the southeast coast of Crimea when it was hit. Russia admits that the ship was damaged, as well as at least six nearby buildings. It claims that one person died and four suffered injuries in the attack.

Russia claims the ship was damaged. If the explosion in the video shows a direct hit on the Novocherkassk, it would seem likely that the damage is severe or that the ship is lost. Explosions often look more destructive than they are, but the tower of flames in the video was possibly hundreds of feet high. Missiles rarely release that much flame. If the fire came from the ship, then it came from a secondary explosion, potentially from the fuel or cargo.

But it is possible that the flames came from a nearby structure or another fuel source.

If the ship was destroyed, it would represent another embarrassment for the Black Sea fleet as well as another supply win for Ukraine. Currently, Russia struggles to move supplies from mainland Russia to Crimea and Kherson Oblast. Supply ships can shuttle some supplies across the water, alleviating the need for trucks. Indeed, Ukraine claims the ship carried drones destined for the front when they hit it.

The strike is reminiscent of the near-destruction of the Olenegorsky Gornyak, another 370-foot landing ship, earlier this year. The Black Sea fleet had 11 of the large landing ships at the start of the war. Russia likely can’t repair the Olenegorsky Gornyak in time to rejoin the war, and the Novocherkassk faces the same scenario. That drops the Black Sea Fleet’s major landing ships to nine.

Black skid of Crimea

Crimea was the crown jewel of Russia’s ill-gotten gains from its 2014 invasion and annexation, a much more successful endeavor than the 2020 full-scale invasion. It gave Russia a warm, deepwater port. If accepted by the international community, it would increase Russia’s mineral and oil rights in the Black Sea. And, of course, it granted Russians a desirable resort area they could visit.

But after the full-scale invasion, Ukraine started hitting military assets in Crimea, something that made it hell as a resort town. And they struck the Kerch Strait Bridge multiple times, limiting the flow of military supplies and consumer goods moving into the peninsula.

And for most of 2023, Ukraine has hit the Russian navy at Crimea repeatedly, destroying multiple ships, killing senior officers, and driving the bulk of the fleet west to Novorossiysk.

Crimea no longer represents a crown jewel, to put it mildly. It’s now the most tenuous “part” of Russia. But Ukraine faces a real shortage of Western aid. The U.S. Congress didn’t pass Ukraine aid before breaking for Christmas. And Hungary blocked European aid at the most recent EU meeting. Ukraine’s ability to choke off Crimea and hold its gains elsewhere will likely degrade without an arsenal of democracy to fill Ukrainian fighters’ hands.

Logan was an Army journalist and paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. Now, he’s a freelance writer and live-streamer. In addition to covering military and conflict news at WeAreTheMighty, he has an upcoming military literacy stream on Saturdays in 2024 on Twitch.tv/logannyewrites.