Ukraine Situation Report: Photos Show Damage To Russian Tanker After Drone Boat Strike

Photos have emerged from the Russian tanker Sig that was struck by Ukrainian unmanned surface drone near the Kerch Strait on Friday night, and the damage appears significant. This attack was the second successful drone boat strike on Russian ships in the Black Sea in the 24 hours.

Waist-deep black, oily water had flooded the ship’s engine room after the attack. Topside, the bridge’s windows were shattered and its pilothouse buckled from the shockwave from hundreds of pounds of explosives detonating after the boat contacted Sig’s hull.

The damage would fit with video from onboard the drone used in the attack, with impact at the waterline near the engine room.

Sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department, the tanker has been previously documented transiting the Bosphorus carrying fuel to the main Syrian oil refinery in Baniyas. 

Ukraine has also issued its own warnings to ships operating around six Russian ports on the Black Sea. The waters near the ports of Taman, Anapa, Novorossiysk, Gelendzhik, Tuapse, and Sochi are declared areas of “war risk” until further notice. 

Kyiv previously warned in July that ships transiting the Black Sea to Russian or Russian-occupied ports “may be considered by Ukraine as carrying military goods with all the corresponding risks.” In a tweet on Saturday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense stated bluntly, “It’s time to say to the Russian killers, “It’s enough.” There are no more safe waters or peaceful harbors for you in the Black and Azov Seas.”

The Black Sea Institute of Strategic Studies reported that in June 2023, Russia exported 4.9 million tons of oil through the Black Sea aboard 42 tankers. Should Ukraine begin targeting Russian tankers in the Black Sea, as well as other cargo vessels, the Black Sea Fleet could have to add escort duty to its mission to protect the shipping lanes. Still, protecting against USVs is very challenging for warships under direct attack. A chain of cargo vessels would still be very vulnerable even under protection of Russian naval ships. 

Before we head into the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

In its latest intelligence update, the British Ministry of Defense called the successful drone attack on the Russian Project 775 Ropucha-class landing ship Olenegorsky Gornyak “a significant blow to the Black Sea Fleet.”

The landing ship, now moored pierside in Novorossiysk with a 30-40 degree list, “almost certainly suffered serious damage,” per the update. The list suggests several watertight compartments were breached. Additionally, the update noted that Olenegorsky Gornyak has often ferried military and civilian traffic between Russia and occupied Crimea after attacks disrupted the Kerch Strait Bridge traffic.

Air raid warnings and explosions from intercepts rocked much of Ukraine late Saturday afternoon as cruise and ballistic missiles headed for targets in the country’s interior. There are unconfirmed reports that part of these strikes including a mass attack against Starokostiantyniv Air Base in Khmelnytskyi Oblast, home to the Su-24M Fencers of the Ukrainian 7th Tactical Aviation Brigade. Notably, the unit’s jets are Ukraine’s delivery system for U.K.-supplied Storm Shadow cruise missiles, which have been used to deadly effect deep behind Russian lines.

Starokostiantyniv Air Base (via Google Maps)
Starokostiantyniv, Ukraine (via Google Maps)
A Ukrainian Su-24M “Fencer” carrying two Storm Shadow cruise missiles in early June. (via Twitter)

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky reported the missile attacks targeted Motor Sich, an aircraft engine manufacturer in the region. It remains unknown whether any missiles reached their targets and if Motor Sich or the Su-24 base suffered damage, if the latter was indeed targeted as some are claiming.

If the Su-24 base was targeted in a concentrated manner, it is indicative of just how big a threat Russia sees the Storm Shadow as being. Unreliably able to intercept these cruise missiles in flight, hitting the Fencers and/or the weapons themselves on the ground could be the best chance to limiting the number of Storm Shadow strikes in the future.

Notably, Saturday’s raid reportedly included at least one launch from within Belarusian territory. Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missiles are often launched from Belarus via their MiG-31 carrier aircraft.

However, as alerts ended in Ukraine, residents in the Kaluga and Tula regions of Russia reported the sounds of explosions and air defense missile launches, indicating a possible simultaneous or retaliatory raid by Ukraine. It is also possible that the commotion as Russian in origin. Russia has certainly launched SAMs by mistake before. Still, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense later tweeted ominously “Two can play that game.”

Saturday’s raid comes after several notable revelations about Ukraine’s air defense efforts against Russian attacks from an excellent piece by Maxim Tucker in The Times. Among them that, one of Ukraine’s air defenders says Kyiv was nearly evacuated last December before MIM-104 Patriots arrived to defend the capital region. Ukraine’s new AIM-132 ASRAAM-based air defense system was also a new bit of information. You can read our full story and analysis here on that. But there were other major points, including those Tucker highlighted in a thread on Twitter today. Among them:

-Ukraine fires over 160 Patriot interceptors a month and their are concerns that supplies will dry up and Russia will try to finish what it started last Winter by knocking out Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

-Russia is going after Su-24 launch aircraft for Storm Shadow due to its effectiveness and the bases they inhabit need better air defenses. This would jive with today’s report on a mass strike against an Su-24 base.

-Patriot has been highly effective against Iskander SRBMs and Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missiles.

In the south, Ukraine has expanded its bridgehead over the Konka River in the Dnipro delta regions of Kherson Oblast. Video shows Russian forces targeting Ukrainian troops on the left (east) bank of the river as the Ukrainians work to widen the bridgehead.

At the other end of the frontline, Russian sources claim troops have taken Novoselivske, north of Svatove, after a series of assaults over previous days. 

In its assessment of the Luhansk Axis, the Institute for the Study of War (@TheStudyofWar ) reported that Russian forces have intensified attacks toward Kupiansk, Lyman, and Svatove, with pitched fighting ongoing along the Svatove-Kreminna line.

The Russian Ministry of Defense claims a Su-30 Flanker intercepted and drove off a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea. Moscow says it detected the drone approaching its border and as the Su-30 approached, the Reaper turned back.

In March, a Russian Su-27 Flanker collided with a Reaper drone over the Black Sea in a high-profile incident. We broke down onboard footage of the collision and subsequent attempts by Russian Flankers in Syria to down Reapers with parachute flares

A huge explosion followed a Ukrainian attack on a Russian ammunition depot near the village of Zaitseve outside Horlivka. As the first fireball and smoke plumes dissipate, numerous secondary explosions from stored munitions send debris tumbling out across the road.

Finally, Ukraine is finishing its work to replace the old Soviet coat of arms on its “Motherland” monument in Kyiv. The Ukrainian trident, or “tryzub,” arrived at the towering monument on Saturday.

That’s all for now. We’ll update this story when there’s more to report on Ukraine.

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