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Naval Drone Strikes Russian Tanker in Kerch Strait

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During the overnight hours, a naval drone targeted a Russian tanker near the Kerch Strait, causing significant damage and rendering the vessel unable to sail independently. Reports from Ukrinform and TASS agencies confirm the incident. According to sources from Interfax-Ukraine and the Ukrainian BBC, the attack is attributed to the Ukrainian secret service SBU, though no official statement has been released by Kiev.

The SBU, in collaboration with the Navy, conducted a special operation to detonate the Russian Federation SIG tanker, which was allegedly transporting fuel for the Russian military. The action took place within Ukrainian territorial waters, utilizing a naval drone and approximately 450 kilograms of TNT, as reported by Interfax-Ukraine.

The targeted tanker, known for delivering aviation fuel from the Russian-annexed Crimea peninsula to Syria, had been subject to US sanctions. Being classified as non-civilian, it fell under the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s ban on transporting military cargo.

Russian authorities, as cited by TASS, acknowledged the attack on the tanker, stating that it suffered damage to the engine room but remained afloat with no fuel leakage. The vessel was approached by two tugboats from the Russian port of Novorossiysk.

Verification of conflicting statements from both parties remains challenging, and independent sources have yet to confirm the details. The US had previously imposed sanctions on the tanker and its owner, TranspetroChart, a company based in St. Petersburg, due to its supply of aviation fuel to Russian forces in Syria, according to Reuters.

Social media images reveal the extent of damage to the partially flooded vessel, including the engine room. Additionally, earlier reports of explosions near the Crimean Bridge, connecting the annexed Ukrainian peninsula to mainland Russia, were linked to the attack on the tanker, temporarily suspending traffic.

The situation in the Black Sea escalated further when, a day prior, the SBU claimed responsibility for hitting a Russian 775-class landing ship, the Olenegorsky Gornyak, with a missile during a special operation near the port of Novorossiysk. The vessel’s hull was severely damaged, rendering it incapable of fulfilling combat duties. However, the Russian Ministry of Defence denied the extent of the damage, asserting that the Ukrainian attack had been thwarted.

In light of these developments, the British Ministry of Defence analyzed the situation and opined that the Russian landing ship likely sustained serious damage. The Olenegorskiy Gornyak’s significant impairment is deemed the most significant incident since the sinking of the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s flagship cruiser, the Moskva, last April.

The SBU chief, Vasyl Malyuk, asserted that Ukrainian operations within their territorial waters are legitimate and deemed any attacks on Russian vessels or the Crimean Bridge as logical and effective measures against the enemy.

The conflict in the Black Sea region has intensified following the expiration of the so-called grain agreements in July, enabling Ukrainian food exports through the Black Sea. Russia’s recent attacks on Ukrainian Black Sea ports, including the destruction of grain warehouses in the port of Izmail on the Danube, have added to the growing tensions.

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