Ukraine Situation Report: Russians Board Ukraine-Bound Ship

A Russian warship reportedly intercepted and boarded a cargo ship in the Black Sea bound for the Ukrainian port of Izmail on Sunday.

The Russian Project 22160 patrol ship Vasily Bykov reportedly encountered the Palau-flagged merchant ship Sukru Okan north of Turkish waters, per the Russian Ministry of Defense. In a news release, Moscow claimed the Bykov hailed the 283-foot-long cargo ship, but the captain did not respond.

The patrol ship then fired warning shots from “automatic small arms” before a Ka-29 helicopter landed a Russian boarding party. Video from aboard the ship shows the Ka-29 “Helix-B” twin-rotor helicopter hovering just above the Okan‘s deck while a number of people believed to be the ship’s crew sit detained on one of the cargo hold doors.

After an inspection, the Russians left the cargo ship, per the Russian MoD. The boarding appears to be the first Russian interdiction of Ukrainian-bound shipping since Moscow abandoned the grain deal in July after a drone boat attack on the Kerch Strait Bridge. Details of the incident remain uncertain, given the Russian Ministry of Defense is the only source at this time. Tracking data from shows the Sukru Okan left the Greek port of Chalkis on August 7. 

After the Russians left, the ship turned west into Turkish territorial waters before proceeding north into Bulgarian waters along the coastline. Both before and after the boarding, Sukru Okan made multiple changes to its broadcasted destination, alternating between the small Romanian port of Sulina and Izmail in Ukrainian waters.

Ukraine recently announced a “humanitarian corridor” for merchant ships stuck in Black Sea ports since the full-scale war began, but cautioned a Russian threat to these ships remained even if they could get underway. 

Although it appears the Sukru Okan made it out of the encounter without further incident, there will no doubt be a chilling effect for other ships considering a run to Ukrainian ports. Russia previously sent an ominous warning with a sinking exercise last month after warning it would intercept Ukrainian-bound shipping.

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

The Latest

Crimean beachgoers had a front-row seat to a reported Ukrainian attack on the Kerch Strait Bridge using modified S-200 surface-to-air missiles on Saturday. Onlookers watched as Russian forces activated smoke generators along the bridge and stopped traffic. Smoke trails from surface-to-air missile launches reached into the blue skies to intercept inbound missiles. You can read more about the S200’s adaptation into a quasi ballistic missile here.

Russia claimed it intercepted all missiles and that the attacks caused no damage, though video showed areas of black smoke along the bridge. Whether this was caused by damage or the smoke generators is not clear. If Ukraine used S-200s in the attack, it would possibly be the country’s first attack of its kind using surface-to-surface missiles against the bridge. Previous attacks used a large truck bomb and drone boats.

One beachgoer posted a video of SAM launches close enough to geolocate the launching battery. Occupation authorities later posted a video of the man, still shirtless off the beach, apologizing for his actions.

The latest attack on the Kerch Strait Bridge led to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense posting a meme trolling the recent strikes: a Lego “Kerch Bridge Repair Kit” for ages 2-5.

The Ukrainian MoD also posted a short video set to Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” with a montage of strikes using drones of all shapes and sizes, with cuts to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.

“When we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away. … If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. … Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.”

Ukrainian drones also targeted Russian forces elsewhere in occupied Crimea early Saturday morning, with a video showing at least one base targeted near Novoozerne. Occupation authorities claimed complete interception of 20 Ukrainian drones.

Russian forces reportedly took significant casualties during a Ukrainian rout of positions in the town of Urozhaine in Donetsk Oblast. Immediately east of the recent battlefields of Staromaiorske, Ukrainian forces smashed into a Russian contingent in the town. 

Russian forces made a disorganized retreat under heavy Ukrainian artillery fire, including cluster munitions from 155mm DPICM shells. Video from a Ukrainian drone shows Russian troops running through the open as bomblets and submunitions rain down.

If Ukraine has indeed taken Urozhaine, Russian positions at the regional supply hub at Staromlynivka are well within striking distance. The Institute for the Study of War (@TheStudyofWar ) assessed maneuvers in the Urozhaine area as “tactically significant advances along the administrative border between Zaporizhia and Donetsk oblasts.”

Heavy fighting continues along the Dnipro River’s eastern banks, where there are continued claims Ukraine established another bridgehead near the town of Kozachi Laheri. Located between the existing bridgehead near Oleshky and Nova Kakhovka, there are conflicting reports on whether the Ukrainian presence is sustainable.

Fighting in and around Olsehky remains intense, with heavy shelling and small-arms fire reported in and around the city.

Mine-clearing operations continue for Ukrainian troops advancing into Russian-held areas, with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov reporting that for every square meter of ground, troops have removed five mines.

According to the British Ministry of Defense, it is “a realistic possibility” Russia no longer funds the Wagner Group PMC after June’s abortive coup. The mercenary group is downsizing its operations after Moscow’s actions against Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin after his failed attempt to seize power.

If the Kremlin indeed closed accounts with Wagner, Belarus could potentially foot the bill, with its work in Africa also providing a flow of income. But there are serious questions about whether the Russian vassal state could afford to keep Wagner operational as its primary benefactor. For that matter, Minsk may consider Wagner a bigger liability than it’s worth.

Ukrainian border guard troops installed a new border marker on Snake Island, replacing the original marker destroyed when Russian forces took the island in the invasion’s opening hours.

Kyiv is now producing its own Kontakt-1 explosive reactive armor (ERA) plates for use on armored vehicles. The Cold War-era applique armor is in wide use on both sides of the war, with Ukraine having added Kontakt-1 to numerous vehicles, including some of its Leopard 2 tanks.

Finally, we have a video of a rather peculiar traffic control situation for a Ukrainian M2A2 Bradley crew in Zaporizhia Oblast. From the commander’s hatch, the crew finds themselves stuck behind a herd of cattle being led down the street.

That’s all for now. We will update this story when there is new information to report from Ukraine. 

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