Ukraine Situation Report: Claims Swirl Around Strikes On Landing Ships In Crimea

Ukraine claims to have struck two Russian Navy landing ships, as well as a command center, and other Black Sea Fleet objectives on the occupied Crimean peninsula. While the level of damage to the two warships is unclear, Russian accounts state that more than 30 soldiers — including 20 officers — were killed in yesterday’s strike on the command center in Sevastopol.

Satellite imagery of the command center facility clearly shows a hole punched through the roof of the building, consistent with a direct hit from a missile strike.

Meanwhile, on X, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine declared:

“Successful hit. The Ukrainian Armed Forces successfully struck the amphibious landing ships Yamal and Azov, communications center, and a number of [the] Black Sea Fleet’s objects of infrastructure in temporarily occupied Sevastopol. Glory to Ukraine!”

The U.K. Defense Secretary Grant Shapps called the attack on the Russian ships a “historic moment for Ukraine.”

“In plain English, it means that Putin can no longer exercise safely in the Black Sea, even though the Russian Fleet has operated there since 1783,” Shapps added.

Initial satellite imagery of the port of Sevastopol obtained by The War Zone indicates likely evidence of a scorch mark on a pier alongside one of the two Ropucha class vessels seen in the frame. In the same imagery, the other ship located across the channel is seen being moved, although it is unclear if it is damaged or not. Overall, the scene does not suggest a major emergency response operation, but that’s not to say that one or both of the vessels didn’t receive damage of some kind. The docked Ropucha could be severely damaged or it could have less severe but still invasive shrapnel damage. There are simply limits to what conclusions can be drawn from a single commercial satellite image.

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There are some unconfirmed suggestions that the image above shows the Azov being moved into dry dock, while the other vessel is another Ropucha class landing ship, the Konstantin Olshansky. That leaves the status of the Yamal unclear.

Time will tell exactly what kind of damage these vessels sustained during the attack, but it’s curious we have seen no other images of the effects of the attack, which usually surfaces soon after these kinds of strikes occur.

What’s clear is that, as well as its sustained attacks on energy infrastructure within Russia’s recognized borders, Ukraine is not letting up its campaign against the Black Sea Fleet, which has resulted in a string of high-profile successes, in terms of vessels sunk or put out of action.

Ukraine has used a range of different weapons to prosecute long-range strikes on Black Sea Fleet interests, including one-way attack drones, cruise missiles, and a succession of uncrewed surface vessels. Kyiv has not disclosed what weapons were used in the latest attack, but various accounts suggest that French-supplied SCALP EG air-launched cruise missiles were involved. These missiles are launched by Ukrainian Air Force Su-24 Fencer strike aircraft. The damage to the command center structure would support that claim. Further evidence that points to this are photos circulating on social media showing the wreckage of at least one SCALP EG missile, purportedly from these latest attacks.

Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Russia-installed governor of Sevastopol, said on Telegram that Russian aid defenses had shot down more than 10 missiles over the port during the attack.

“Our military is repelling a massive attack on Sevastopol,” Razvozhayev said. The local governor added that a 65-year-old man was killed when three homes were hit by shrapnel, and four people were injured. He said that damaged infrastructure included an office building and a gas line.

Before diving into more developments from the conflict in Ukraine, The War Zone readers can review our previous coverage here.

The Latest

Accounts from Ukraine claim that their air defenses today successfully downed two Russian 3M22 Zircon hypersonic cruise missiles launched against Kyiv. While the still-mysterious missile is said to have been used operationally against Ukraine in the past, this is the first occasion that Ukrainian sources have claimed that it was intercepted. This is especially notable considering that the Zircon is considered a ‘true’ hypersonic weapon, with a stated speed of up to Mach 9, based on Russian accounts — this would almost make it immune to interception using currently available SAM capabilities.

We have to be clear that we still cannot confirm that Zircon has been used in Ukraine, but claims are piling up that it has and Putin has also said the same.

Photos claiming to show parts of at least one downed 3M22 missile appeared today on social media.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense states that two “ballistic missiles” were launched from Crimea. While the ministry does not specify that Zircon was involved, this conclusion has been reached by other Ukrainian accounts, based on the wreckage. Previously reported instances of Zircon missiles being used against Ukraine were understood to have involved launches from occupied Crimea, presumably from a ground-based launcher. Launch from a modified mobile Bastion-P, or even the Cold War-era static Utes coastal defense missile system have both been suggested.

Reportedly, fragments from one of the intercepted missiles resulted in the destruction of a school gymnasium in the Pechersk district of Kyiv, while the remains of the other missile came down in a residential area. In total, seven people were injured, two being hospitalized, according to Ukrainian accounts.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) told the Kyiv Post that the intended target of the missiles was the offices of the service in Kyiv, “where high-ranking SBU officials are located.” The attack may have been timed to coincide with the Day of the Security Service of Ukraine — March 25. Use of the Zircon against such a high-profile target would not be a surprise.

Previously, on February 7, during another attack on Kyiv, similar wreckage was recovered. An analysis from a Ukrainian research institute concluded that these were parts of a Zircon missile, with the suggestion being that the weapon malfunctioned and crashed. Even before that, on December 30, more wreckage appeared, including parts that looked very similar. If that analysis is correct, it suggests that Russia may have launched Zircon attacks on three separate occasions, at least.

According to Ukraine’s Defense Express website, the missiles today “were shot down directly over Kyiv,” based on a “primary analysis of the fragments of two missiles.” The wreckage from this latest incident also appears to be much more extensive than either of the previous examples, suggesting that it may well yield a lot more information about this shadowy weapon.

Until now, there is no verified photo of the 3M22 Zircon missile available, and there have been only brief glimpses of claimed test launches released by the Russian Ministry of Defense. At the same time, the characteristics of the weapon remain very much open to interpretation, as does its propulsion system.

3M22 WRECKAGE
A line drawing of a supposed 3M22 Zircon missile provided by the Kyiv Scientific-Research Institute for Forensic Examinations, based on alleged Zircon fragments from the February 7 attack. via X
via X

If it’s true that Ukrainian air defenses did successfully intercept the Zircon, that would raise more questions, not only about how the missiles were brought down but also their wider capabilities. The most likely candidate for a successful Zircon kill in the Ukrainian inventory is the U.S.-made Patriot air defense system, which has reportedly been successful against the Kinzhal, which is admittedly a less challenging target.

After all, as we have observed before, Zircon’s reported sustained hypersonic speed and maneuverability should present a much greater challenge to Ukraine’s air defenses than conventional ballistic missiles and even the air-launched Kinzhal, which is an adaptation of a ground-launched short-range ballistic missile. With such high speeds — at least based on Russian claims — the defender should only have a strictly limited amount of time to react to the considerably faster Zircon.

At the same time, even Russian officials have admitted in the past that Zircon experienced significant difficulties during development and it remains entirely possible that the wreckage comes from missiles that malfunctioned independently of Ukrainian air defenses. On the other hand, they may well comprise fragments of a different kind of missile altogether.

While Ukraine once again attacked the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea and sent long-range drones against energy targets in Russian border regions, Moscow continued its campaign of strikes against Ukrainian targets. And yet again, a Russian cruise missile also entered Polish airspace.

The Russian attacks early yesterday morning focused on critical infrastructure in Ukraine’s western region of Lviv, which borders Poland. According to the Polish Armed Forces, one Russian missile entered Polish airspace near the town of Oserdow and stayed there for 39 seconds. Poland says the missile was tracked by military radar throughout the incursion.

“On March 24 at 4:23 a.m., there was a violation of Polish airspace by one of the cruise missiles launched overnight by long-range aviation of the Russian Federation,” the Polish Armed Forces said on X.

A Polish military spokesperson, Jacek Goryszewski, told reporters that the missile traveled around 1.2 miles into Polish airspace before returning to Ukraine.

The Polish Armed Forces Operational Command (RSZ) said that its forces were at an increased state of readiness due to the “intensive Long-Range Aviation activity of the Russian Federation tonight.”

“Polish and allied aircraft have been activated, which may result in increased noise levels, especially in the southeastern part of the country,” the RSZ said.

Polish Minister of Defense Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz said Poland had activated “all air defense systems, all air force systems” and would have shot down the missile if it had appeared to be heading towards a target in Poland.

Warsaw — which has been a staunch backer of Ukraine through the conflict — said it would demand an explanation from Moscow. The Polish Foreign Ministry said it will summon the Russian ambassador over the airspace violation.

These kinds of incidents have happened before.

In December, a Russian missile entered Polish airspace for several minutes before returning to Ukraine.

In November 2022, two people were killed when a missile fired by a Ukrainian air defense system fell in the Polish village of Przewodow, near the Ukrainian border. That missile had been aimed at an incoming Russian missile or drone.

In yesterday’s attacks, the Ukrainian Air Force claimed that air defenses destroyed 18 of 29 inbound missiles and 25 of 28 attack drones. The primary launch platforms for the missiles appear to have been Russian Aerospace Forces Tu-95MS Bear-H bombers.

Ukraine’s energy ministry described an attack on a critical energy facility in the Lviv region, which caught fire, leading to a power outage.

“There were two preliminary hits on the same critical infrastructure facility that the occupiers targeted at night,” Lviv’s regional governor Maksym Kozytskyi wrote on Telegram. He added that Russia also made use of Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missiles.

In the city of Lviv, local mayor Andriy Sadovy said about 20 missiles and seven Iranian-designed Shahed drones were fired at the region. “They targeted critical infrastructure facilities.”

As well as Lviv, Kyiv was also targeted in the attack, which came two days after what Ukrainian officials said was the largest aerial bombardment of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure since the start of the full-scale invasion.

Several explosions were reported in Kyiv in the early hours. Serhiy Popko, head of military administration in the capital, said that the missiles arrived “in groups”. He said that Ukrainian air defenses destroyed around a dozen missiles over and around the city, with only minor damage being sustained.

“The enemy continues massive missile terror against Ukraine,” Popko said on Telegram. “It does not give up its goal of destroying Kyiv at any cost.”

“Explosions in the capital,” Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, posted on Telegram. “Air defense is working. Do not leave shelters.”

All the signs are that Russia is aiming to increase the pressure on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, after the strikes last Friday that led to widespread blackouts and forced Kyiv to step up imports of power from other countries.

“For the third pre-dawn morning this week, all of Ukraine is under an air alert and has been advised to seek shelter,” U.S. Ambassador Bridget Brink posted on X.

Russian energy infrastructure continues to be hit by Ukrainian attacks. Today saw a major Russian powerplant in the southwest of the country go partially offline, amid reports of overnight Ukrainian drone strikes.

Early on Monday, a fire at the Novocherkassk powerplant in Rostov — one of the largest thermal power plants in southwestern Russia — took two of its units out of operation, according to regional governor Vasily Golubev.

The power supply to customers was briefly disrupted, Golubev added.

There were no casualties reported and Russian authorities say they are investigating the cause of the fire.

Meanwhile, the Russian Ministry of Defense said its air defenses had destroyed 11 Ukrainian drones launched overnight over the Rostov region.

The Baza news channel attributes the Novocherkassk fire to a Ukrainian drone strike, but this cannot be independently verified. Ukraine rarely, if ever, comments directly on drone strikes on Russian territory, although there is now little doubt about the extent of the Ukrainian campaign against Russian energy infrastructure. As the graphic below indicates, oil refineries have been very much in the line of fire.

The fallout from the terrorist attack on a Moscow concert hall last Friday continues, with further — unsubstantiated — claims from the Kremlin that Ukraine was somehow involved in an incident for which Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

The death toll for the attack on the Crocus City Hall has now risen to at least 133, with at least 182 more injured.

President Vladimir Putin has attempted to connect the attack with Kyiv, claiming that the perpetrators were captured fleeing toward Ukraine; the four alleged gunmen were apprehended in the southern Bryansk region. Ukraine has denied any involvement.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday accused Putin of seeking to “shift the blame” onto Kyiv for the attack.

“What happened yesterday in Moscow is obvious: Putin and the other thugs are just trying to blame it on someone else,” Zelensky said.

“They have brought hundreds of thousands of their own terrorists here, on Ukrainian land, to fight against us, and they don’t care about what is happening inside their own country,” he added.

“That low-life Putin, instead of dealing with his Russian citizens, addressing them, was silent for a full 24 hours, thinking about how to tie this to Ukraine,” he said. “It’s all absolutely predictable.”

Moscow today also sought to undermine the credibility of assertions from the United States that the Islamic State was responsible for the attack.

Currently, four suspected gunmen, all reportedly from Tajikistan, are remanded in custody for terrorism and face charges for a “terror attack committed by a group of individuals resulting in a person’s death.” The four appeared separately today at Moscow’s Basmanny district court. In total, 11 people have been detained, Russian authorities say.

https://twitter.com/Gerashchenko_en/status/1772239647097151762

U.S. officials said they warned Russia of intelligence about an imminent attack earlier this month and they believe the terror group acted alone.

“ISIS bears sole responsibility for this attack. There was no Ukrainian involvement whatsoever,” the National Security Council spokesperson, Adrienne Watson, said in a statement.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack more than once, and released footage that shows it underway.

So far, Putin has not publicly mentioned Islamic State in connection with the attackers, but he has claimed that some people on “the Ukrainian side” wanted to help them across the border.

In an article for the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote:

“Attention — a question to the White House: Are you sure it’s ISIS? Might you think again about that?”

Zakharova accused the United States of using Islamic State as a “bogeyman” to protect its “wards” in Kyiv.

A 1,500-kilogram FAB-1500 bomb fitted with a range-extending UMPK precision-guidance/glide kit, mounted under a Russian Aerospace Forces Su-34 Fullback strike aircraft, bearing the slogan “For Crocus” on the nose:

Losses of U.S.-supplied M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles continue to mount. In this case, the vehicle was captured in Avdiivka. It becomes the third confirmed example to be taken intact by Russian forces, where a previous example was presented to the public on a propaganda train earlier this year. According to the Oryx open-source intelligence group, 74 Bradleys are known to have been destroyed, damaged, and/or abandoned, 

A new video has emerged showing the degree of damage inflicted by the Russian attack on the huge DniproHES dam over the Dnipro River, in the city of Zaporizhzhia. You can read about this attack, which left at least five people dead and left more than a million without power, in our previous coverage.

The dam, Ukraine’s largest, was reportedly hit eight times by Russian missile strikes, including by Kh-101 air-launched cruise missiles. At the time, the state hydropower company confirmed that both the power blocks and the dam itself had been damaged, with one of the blocks sustaining two direct strikes. Despite the hits, the company said there was no risk of a breach.

A photo has been published by the Turkish shipbuilder RMK Marine showing the first MILGEM corvette being built for Ukraine. The vessel is named Ivan Mazepa and the company had previously said that it would be delivered before the end of this year. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine means that is now highly questionable and Kyiv may have to wait a while longer before it embarks on re-establishing the forces of its now nearly non-existent conventional navy.

Reports suggest that the Russian Armed Forces are making increasing use of highly mobile, lightweight all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) as they continue to adapt their tactics. This footage purports to show an example of the Chinese-made Desertcross 1000-3. Accompanying explanation points to related Russian tactics, in which groups of between five and eight soldiers ride the buggies into battle, with the aim of rapidly securing and then holding positions, after which these vehicles are abandoned. In this example, the Russians failed in their objective, somewhere on the Avdiivka front. The video, which is very graphic (viewer beware), also shows how drones are allowing troops to be targeted with high precision in ways that were impossible in the past, literally weaving bomblets through strewn rubble to get to them.

So far, we have been almost inundated with video footage taken from Ukrainian first-person-view (FPV) drones as they strike targets on the battlefield. While videos showing these drones pressing home attacks on vehicles and troops with unerring accuracy have become commonplace, a more unusual target is seen in the next example of this genre. Here, the drone is seen attacking (and presumably destroying) a Russian Murom-M video and thermal-imaging surveillance system, which gets a remarkable view of its impending demise.

The Muron-M is described by its manufacturer as a “preconfigured self-contained system for rapid deployment providing real-time 24/7 situational awareness on demand. Delivering intelligent surveillance of open land and water areas it is easily extended with radar for 360-degree target detection and tracking. Integration with any PIDS [perimeter intrusion detection systems] sensors delivers comprehensive perimeter security solution.”

A Russian FPV drone is seen next, this being an unorthodox design with two sets of wings, a pair of pusher propellers being mounted on the front canard-like set. Reportedly, the drone can strike targets at a distance of 12 miles or more. The example here was recovered from a Ukrainian position and is seen here without its explosive payload, normally mounted on the centerline.

Equally interesting is this Ukrainian-designed FPV drone, the primary construction of which appears to rely mainly on lightweight wood. Despite the flimsy construction, it carries a fairly powerful warhead, in the shape of a 122mm artillery round.

Another intriguing FPV drone development is the reported appearance of target designators that Russian sources claim are being attached to vehicles, indicating them as targets for Ukrainian FPV drones. Since they are magnetic, they can reportedly be thrown onto moving vehicles. We cannot confirm whether these are actually a real thing or not, but something that provides a specific signal to home in on would be beneficial.

As FPV drones proliferate on the battlefield, so do the measures taken to try and counter them. This unorthodox example shows a Russian BMP infantry fighting vehicle festooned with metal wires, projecting vertically from the hull. Reportedly an experimental addition to the more familiar anti-drone ‘cope cage,’ the wire is likely intended to trigger a premature detonation of the FPV warhead, which is often detonated by a loop of wire on the front of the drone, which completes a simple electrical circuit when it impacts the target.

That’s it till our next update.

Contact the author: thomas@thewarzone.com

Thomas Newdick

Staff Writer

Thomas is a defense writer and editor with over 20 years of experience covering military aerospace topics and conflicts. He’s written a number of books, edited many more, and has contributed to many of the world’s leading aviation publications. Before joining The War Zone in 2020, he was the editor of AirForces Monthly.

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