Ukraine has hit back following a series of Russian drone attacks on Ukrainian ports, and on the heels of last month's collapse of the UN-backed grain deal, and just as US Secretary of State Blinken has accused Moscow of "using food as a weapon of war".
Ukraine says its Friday military operation has severely damaged a Russian naval ship - the Olenogorsky Gornyak - off the port of Novorossiysk, a major hub for Russian exports. Video and images appear to show the vessel is listing in the aftermath. Importantly, the port is among the largest in the Black Sea basin and is significantly far from Ukrainian shores, on the clear other side of the Crimean peninsula.
Earlier claims of the Russian defense ministry said the attack off its port was repelled, but videos emerging in the aftermath show the warship being towed near the Novorossiysk naval base.
A Ukrainian official has told multiple media outlets, including CNN and BBC, that a sea drone equipped with 450 kilograms of TNT had detonated at the hull and damaged the ship, which had about 100 Russian servicemen aboard when it happened.
"A big navy ship Olenogorsky Gornyak was hit," the Ukrainian official identified in the statements. "As the result of the attack, the Russian ship has received serious damage and is not able to fulfill its duties."
Video of the ship listing to one side while towed back to port:
📽️Ukrainian Army attacked Russian Naval Base in Novorossiysk with unmanned surface drones last night. What seems to be Project 755 Olenegorsky Gornyak was seriously damaged during the attack.#UkraineRussiaWar pic.twitter.com/b5S2Fr7d1n— MilitaryLand.net (@Militarylandnet) August 4, 2023
The Olenegorsky Gornyak is an amphibious assault landing ship, also for rapidly unloading cargo and equipment on beaches, so this could to some degree impact resupplies of Russian forces in southern Ukraine.
Another video of a Russian landing ship that was reportedly damaged this morning being towed. The man filming the video says the ship is heavily listing and sinking deeper the further it goes. Hard to say what will happen to it but it doesn't look healthy. pic.twitter.com/0sGBgbtUwA— Dmitri (@wartranslated) August 4, 2023
⚡️🇷🇺Russian amphibious assault ship of project 775 Olenegorsky Gornyak after meeting with 🇺🇦Ukrainian naval kamikaze drone pic.twitter.com/1QCBmfA577— 🇺🇦Ukrainian Front (@front_ukrainian) August 4, 2023
Ukraine's security service has released a video purporting to show the moment the explosive-laden sea drone attacked the ship, thought to be the Olenegorsky Gornyak.
The video feed appears to cut out exactly upon detonation...
1/ This morning strike by a Ukrainian USV on the Russian Navy's "Olenegorsky Gornyak", Ropuchya-class landing ship in Novorossiysk port. The USV was apparently packed with 450kg of explosives. pic.twitter.com/QCvsGDaeLI— Samuel Bendett (@sambendett) August 4, 2023
This fresh attack is likely to ensure Moscow doesn't return to the Black Sea Grain Initiative deal, though the deal looked effectively dead regardless. Russia is likely to now ramp up its attacks on Ukrainian ports and grain silos, as the conflict continues to escalate toward "unlimited war".