Russian navy ship 'destroyed' off Crimea, as Britain claims 20% of Kremlin's Black Sea fleet knocked out

26 December 2023, 12:02 | Updated: 26 December 2023, 12:06

The strike on the landing ship Novocherkassk has been confirmed by both Russia and Ukraine
The strike on the landing ship Novocherkassk has been confirmed by both Russia and Ukraine. Picture: Telegram

By Kit Heren

Britain has claimed that one-fifth of Russia's Black Sea fleet has been incapacitated after Ukraine said it had destroyed an enemy ship off Crimea.

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Ukraine said the landing ship Novocherkassk was destroyed by plane-launched guided missiles while sitting near the city of Feodosia, officials said.

One person is said to have been killed and two more injured in the air strike.

Russia said the ship was damaged and claimed that two Ukrainian fighter jets were destroyed by anti-aircraft fire during the attack.

It comes after the British Ministry of Defence said earlier this month that the UK would lead a new maritime capability coalition alongside Norway to increase support for Ukraine in its war with Russia.

Britain's Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said after the ship was destroyed: "This latest destruction of 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 4 months 20% of Russia's Black Sea Fleet has been destroyed.

"Russia's dominance in the Black Sea is now challenged and the new UK & Norway led Maritime Capability Coalition is helping to ensure Ukraine will win at sea."

Over recent months, Ukrainian forces have conducted attacks around Crimea, mostly with sea drones, and President Volodymyr Zelensky says those attacks have allowed Ukraine to restore navigation in the Black Sea and allowing the export of millions of tons of grain.

Read more: The war in Ukraine isn’t improving, the world is simply choosing to move on...

Read more: UK transfers two minehunter ships to Ukraine to counter Russian blockade and open up Black Sea trade routes

The Novocherkassk ship several years before it was attacked
The Novocherkassk ship several years before it was attacked. Picture: Getty

Videos on Ukrainian social media channels showed an extensive fire in the port area.

"The Russian fleet has become smaller," Ukrainian air force Commander Mykola Oleschuk said in a mocking message on the Telegram app.

He urged Russians to leave Crimea - which Moscow annexed in 2014 - "while it's not too late".

The air force did not say whether any of its planes were shot down in the attack.

A summary from the Ukrainian presidential office on Tuesday said Russia had launched 18 drones against the Odesa and Mykolaiv regions, 13 of which were shot down, over the past day.

The remaining drones caused infrastructure damage but no casualties were reported, the summary said.

it comes after the UK transferred two minehunter ships to Ukraine to help counteract the Russian blockade in the Black Sea.

The two Sandown Class mine countermeasures vessels will help Ukrainian ships find explosives left by the Russians in the sea, a move that would allow Kyiv to increase exports in the Black Sea trade route.

British intelligence sources warned in October that Russia could use sea mines against civilian ships.

The maritime coalition will deliver long-term support, including training, equipment and infrastructure to boost security in the Black Sea, Britain said.

Ukraine and Russia had previously agreed to a deal that allowed Kyiv to export food products through the Black Sea, but Russia pulled out in July.

Vladimir Putin's government said afterwards that ships near Ukrainian ports would be considered potential supporters of Kyiv's war efforts.

Ukraine set up a "humanitarian corridor" across the sea to its ports in response. Several NATO members, including Turkey, also border the Black Sea.

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