Ukraine drone attack damages Russian tanker

Ukraine drone attack damages Russian tanker

Vessel was under US sanctions for supplying jet fuel to Russian forces backing Assad in Syria

PUBLISHED : 5 Aug 2023 at 21:45

The Kerch bridge links the Russian mainland to Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014. (Photo: AFP)
The Kerch bridge links the Russian mainland to Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014. (Photo: AFP)

KYIV: Ukraine carried out a drone strike overnight on a Russian tanker in the Kerch Strait, a day after one of Moscow’s ships was hit in the Black Sea, a Ukrainian security source told AFP on Saturday.

It was the latest attack around the Black Sea since Moscow exited a deal last month that had protected Ukrainian grain exports despite the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

“Overnight the (Ukrainian Security Service) SBU blew up the ‘SIG’, a large oil tanker belonging to the Russian Federation that was transporting fuel for Russian troops,” the Ukrainian source said.

The “successful special operation”, which involved a naval drone and explosives, was carried out jointly with the navy in Ukrainian territorial waters, the source said, adding that the ship was “well-loaded with fuel, so the ‘fireworks’ could be seen from afar”.

In a video obtained by AFP purporting to show the attack, a vessel is seen approaching a large ship before the connection cuts off.

The Russian tanker SIG was hit around 11.20pm on Friday south of the Kerch Strait, Russia’s Federal Agency for Sea and Inland Water Transport said.

The oil and chemical tanker is under US sanctions for supplying jet fuel to Russian forces in Syria who are supporting President Bashar al-Assad.

The SIG suffered a hole at the waterline in the area of the engine room, “presumably as a result of an attack by a marine drone”, the agency said on Telegram. “The ship is afloat.”

An oil boom had been placed around the vessel and preparations were under way to patch up the damage, it said.

Maritime attacks

Russia’s state RIA Novosti news agency said there were no casualties, citing the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Novorossiysk.

Traffic on a key bridge across the Kerch Strait linking the Moscow-annexed Crimean peninsula to Russia’s mainland resumed early on Saturday after a three-hour halt, according to the Russian highways information centre’s Telegram channel.

Crimea has been disrupted by several strikes throughout the war but it has seen more frequent attacks in recent weeks.

Russian forces on Saturday downed a drone over the sea near Sevastopol, city governor Mikhail Razvozhayev said.

Ukrainian drone strikes on Crimea in July blew up an ammunition depot and damaged the strategic bridge across the Kerch Strait.

Attacks have intensified on the Black Sea overall since Russia pulled out of an agreement protecting exports via the shipping hub during the conflict between the two countries.

Ukraine struck the Olenegorsky Gornyak vessel at the Novorossiysk base in southern Russia, a Ukrainian security source told AFP, “to show that Ukraine can attack any Russian warship in that zone”.

Russia said it had repelled the attempted attack on the naval base by the Ukrainian armed forces “with the use of two unmanned sea boats”.

Increased fighting in the East

On the front line, Russia said it had captured the settlement of Novoselivske in northeastern Ukraine, where Kyiv said it was confronted with a growing number of attacks.

Footage from the Russian army showed Novoselivske completely destroyed, white smoke billowing over crumbling buildings.

Ukrainian army spokeswoman Ganna Malyar said on Friday that Russian troops were aiming to draw Ukrainian resources to the east, as Ukraine pursues its counter-offensive in the south.

Ukraine began a new counter-offensive in June but it has made only modest progress, its forces contending with well-entrenched Russian defensive positions built up over several months.

With both sides focused on winning on the battlefield, any chance to secure peace looks thin.

Still, Saudi Arabia is hosting talks on the Ukraine war with representatives from nearly 40 countries — including China, India and South Africa — but not Russia.

Ukrainian Presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak said the session would “not be easy” given the range of countries represented but “our task is to unite the whole world around Ukraine”.

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