Ukrainian drones damage Russian warship, indicating Kyiv’s expanding naval strength

by Chloe Baker
Ukraine's naval capabilities

Ukraine announced that its maritime drones have inflicted damage on a Russian warship, an act that emphasizes Kyiv’s evolving prowess as the Black Sea becomes an increasingly vital theater in the ongoing conflict.

The assault on the port of Novorossiysk, which temporarily disrupted sea traffic, represents the first time a Russian commercial port has been attacked since the conflict began around 18 months ago. The Black Sea port, home to a naval base, shipbuilding yards, and an oil terminal crucial for exports, is located roughly 110 kilometers (approximately 60 nautical miles) east of Crimea, a region where the Russian Defense Ministry claims to have fended off another assault.

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) and the navy conducted the operation which caused damage to the Olenegorsky Gornyak, a Russian navy landing vessel, according to a security service official who spoke anonymously as they were not authorized to share information with the press. The assault rendered the ship incapable of carrying out combat duties. Images shared on social media revealed the vessel tilting.

The recent assault represents another in a sequence of strikes within Russian territory. It also indicates a rise in Black Sea skirmishes subsequent to Moscow’s withdrawal from an agreement permitting Ukraine to ship its grain through the waterway. A significant amount of damage and a large fire were caused at grain facilities in the Odesa region by Russian drones on Wednesday. The previous day, the Russian military reported that Kyiv’s forces attempted to attack two of its patrol vessels southwest of Sevastopol in Russian-controlled Crimea.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, praised the recent attack, claiming it demonstrated how “drones are rewriting the rules of warfare…and fundamentally undermining the worth of the Russian fleet.”

Until now, Russia’s vastly superior navy has dominated the war at sea. Its ships have regularly fired cruise missiles at major Ukrainian ports and cities, effectively blockading the Ukrainian coastline and mining the Black Sea, making navigation perilous. Recent attacks on the Kerch Bridge linking Crimea to Russia and Podolyak’s comments could suggest that Ukraine is attempting to shift this dynamic.

Ukrainian military analyst Roman Svytan stated that with the recent strike, “Kyiv demonstrated its capability to target any vessel of the Black Sea Fleet, regardless of its location.” The termination of the grain agreement, which guaranteed safe passage for food-carrying ships from Ukrainian ports, “has freed Kyiv’s hands,” Svytan added, predicting that attacks on Russian vessels will only escalate.

Despite Friday’s attack serving as a crucial morale boost for Ukraine, challenging Russia’s naval dominance in the Black Sea will be a formidable task for Ukraine.

The Russian Black Sea Fleet, with close to 50 warships, seven submarines, and a substantial number of auxiliary vessels, vastly overshadows Ukraine’s capacity, which claims to have lost over 80% of its naval capabilities due to Russia’s unlawful annexation of Crimea.

Regardless of Russia’s supremacy, Ukrainian missiles have sunk the flagship of the fleet, the Moskva missile cruiser, and also destroyed the Saratov landing ship in the occupied port of Berdyansk. Reports indicate that several others have been damaged.

The Russian Defense Ministry asserted that its navy successfully countered Friday’s attack, claiming to have destroyed two Ukrainian maritime drones. Videos posted on Russian social media seemed to show a ship discharging into the sea and a burning object exploding.

However, other images circulated on messaging app channels purported to show the Olenegorsky Gornyak leaning to one side, with Russian military bloggers corroborating the damage. Ukrainian media also shared footage claimed to be from a drone’s onboard camera approaching the Russian landing ship.

The authenticity of the videos could not be verified by The Big Big News.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, declined to comment on the attack during a press briefing.

The Caspian Pipeline Consortium, which manages an oil terminal in Novorossiysk, reported that maritime traffic was paused for a few hours, but its facilities remained unharmed. The regional governor announced no casualties.

Shortly after acknowledging the assault on the Black Sea port early Friday morning, Russia’s Ministry of Defense stated that it had also repelled another Ukrainian attack on Crimea. The ministry reported that ten drones were downed by air defense systems and three others were jammed.

Last month, a key bridge connecting Russia to the peninsula it annexed unlawfully in 2014 was hit by another Ukrainian attack. This bridge is a crucial conduit for delivering military and civilian supplies to Crimea and sustaining Russia’s war efforts.

In other developments:

— Yevgeny Balitsky, the Moscow-appointed governor of the Russia-occupied part of the Zaporizhzhia region, reported that several Ukrainian drones were shot down near the Sea of Azov port city of Berdyansk overnight.

— The Ukrainian prosecutors office accused Russian forces of hitting the Kherson region with a guided bomb, injuring a local inhabitant. Photos of the attack showing a deep crater and damaged buildings were published by the office.

— Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, met with Zelenskyy on Friday.

Burrows reported from Tallinn, Estonia. Yuras Karmanau of The Big Big News contributed from Berlin.

For ongoing coverage of the Ukrainian war, visit

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Ukraine’s naval capabilities

Who conducted the attack on the Russian warship?

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) and the Ukrainian navy conducted the attack that damaged the Russian warship Olenegorsky Gornyak.

What was the impact of the drone attack on the Russian warship?

The drone attack damaged the Olenegorsky Gornyak, a Russian navy landing vessel, rendering it unable to carry out combat duties.

What has been the recent pattern of strikes in Russia?

The assault on the Russian warship is the latest in a sequence of strikes inside Russian territory, reflecting an increase in Black Sea skirmishes subsequent to Moscow’s withdrawal from a grain export agreement with Ukraine.

How did the termination of the grain deal affect Ukraine’s strategic position?

The termination of the grain deal, which previously ensured safe passage for Ukrainian grain exports, has “freed Kyiv’s hands,” potentially increasing the frequency of Ukrainian attacks on Russian vessels.

How does Ukraine’s naval capability compare to Russia’s?

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which includes nearly 50 warships, seven submarines, and a substantial number of auxiliary vessels, vastly overshadows Ukraine’s capacity. Ukraine claims to have lost over 80% of its naval capabilities due to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

What has been the fate of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in light of recent attacks?

Despite Russia’s naval superiority, Ukrainian missiles have managed to sink the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva missile cruiser, and also destroyed the Saratov landing ship. Reports suggest that several other vessels have been damaged.

Have there been any casualties reported following the attack on the Russian warship?

No casualties were reported following the drone attack on the Russian warship, according to the regional governor.

More about Ukraine’s naval capabilities

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Igor_S August 4, 2023 - 10:46 pm

I didn’t think Ukraine had it in them. Looks like they’re trying to change the game. Hats off to them!

MarineLife August 5, 2023 - 1:07 am

I just hope that this increase in warfare activity in the Black Sea doesn’t harm the delicate marine ecosystem there. We often forget the impact of war on environment.

NatashaG August 5, 2023 - 1:46 am

So scared for my family back in Novorossiysk. i hope this war ends soon.

VasilyP August 5, 2023 - 4:44 am

as a Russian, I’m worried about these attacks. what’s next?? is there any real solution in sight…

Analyst101 August 5, 2023 - 6:04 am

the grain deal exit seems to have opened up a whole new level of aggression. But at what cost…who pays for these conflicts in the end?

MichaelK August 5, 2023 - 6:22 am

wow, looks like Ukraine is stepping up their game in the naval field. Good for them, they ain’t backing down!

OlenaL August 5, 2023 - 7:15 am

Incredible how drones are changing warfare, isn’t it? they can damage even a massive warship.

SafetyFirst August 5, 2023 - 11:50 am

no casualties reported so far, that’s some relief. hope it remains the same in future.

SeaDog247 August 5, 2023 - 12:33 pm

Man, naval warfare ain’t what it used to be. Drones taking on warships? What a time to be alive.


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