Ukrainian sea drones 'sink' large Russian landing ship in fresh blow to Putin's Black Sea fleet

Ukrainian sea drones 'sink' large Russian landing ship in fresh blow to Putin's Black Sea fleet

Vladimir Putin’s Black Sea naval fleet was reported to have suffered a fresh blow with a large Russian landing ship being destroyed by Ukrainian drones.

Ukrainian armed forces hit the Tsezar Kunikov off occupied Crimea in the Black Sea, the Ukrainian military said on Wednesday.

"The Ukrainian Armed Forces, together with the Defence Ministry's intelligence unit, destroyed the large landing ship Tsezar Kunikov. It was in Ukrainian territorial waters near Alupka at the time of the hit," the military said on the Telegram messaging app.

Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence published a video which it claimed showed Magura V5 sea drones striking the ship.

“The (ship) suffered critical holes in its port side and began to sink,” Ukraine’s intelligence directorate said, reporting further that it had been destroyed by a unit called Group 13.

The official statements came shortly after the hit on the ship was reported by Ukrainska Pravda, a major Ukrainian media outlet.

The news outlet published several videos showing a column of smoke over the sea off the southern coast of Crimea, as well as helicopters flying over the sea.

The vessel was said to be a 112-metre Russian Ropucha-class landing ship, with around 50 crew.

Unconfirmed reports said it capsized after several hits by the sea drones and quickly sunkUkrainian lawmaker Oleksiy Honcharenko said the targeted ship was the Tsezar Kunikov, which took part in Russian military operations in Georgia in 2008.

The account or the footage could not be independently verified.

Russian state agency RIA said earlier on Wednesday Russia’s air defence systems destroyed nine Ukraine-launched drones over Russia’s Belgorod and Voronezh regions, as well as over the Black Sea.

Six drones were destroyed over the Black Sea, RIA quoted the Russian defence ministry as saying.

In December, Ukrainian cruise missiles struck a large Russian landing warship in Crimea that killed at least one person.

A Russian corvette was also reportedly targeted in the Black Sea earlier this month.

The land frontlines in Putin’s war are now largely static, with Russian forces making limited gains in some areas, as the conflict is set to enter its third year.

But Putin’s Black Sea Fleet has been pushed eastwards, away from Crimea, towards Russia after a series of Ukrainian attacks.

The fleet’s flagship warship, the Moskva, was sunk in spring 2022.

The reach of the Russian air force is also believe to have been slightly reduced by Ukrainian attacks on airfields and the recent downing of a spy plane.