Watch: Ukraine sinks Russian warship in Black Sea drone strike

Ukrainian sea drones have sunk a Russian warship in the Black Sea in the most successful attack of its kind to date.

Footage captured by the drones shows them navigating choppy waters as they home in on the Ivanovets, a Tarantul-class missile corvette, while Russian sailors respond with a hail of bullets. The sea drones strike the ship’s hull multiple times, causing heavy damage which eventually sinks the Ivanovets.

“As a result of a number of direct strikes to the hull, the Russian vessel sustained critical damage causing immobilisation – it heaved aft and sank,” Ukraine’s military intelligence agency (GUR) said.

Russia has not commented and it is unclear if anyone died in the attack.

Warship worth £55m

The GUR said the raid took place on Jan 31 in Lake Donuzlav, a saltwater inlet which is home to the Russian navy’s Southern Naval Base on the western coast of occupied Crimea.

It claimed the warship was worth as much as £55 million ($70 million).

Footage shows the drones racing towards the warship’s port side and striking the same spot repeatedly.

Later footage filmed from a distance by other unmanned sea vehicles (USVs) shows the ship exploding, with a mushroom cloud rising into the sky.

Explosion of warship
Footage filmed from a distance shows the ship exploding with a mushroom cloud rising into the sky - DEFENCE OF UKRAINE/X

The bow of the Ivanovets was left jutting upwards out of the water, with the rest of the ship submerged below the surface in the final scene of the footage shared by the GUR.

Ukraine has used sea drones to damage Russia’s numerically and technologically superior navy before.

But the Ivanovets marks the first time in the war that sea drones have sunk a Russian vessel, as previous attacks have only disabled or damaged them.

Drones tip power balance in Black Sea

In August, a sea drone raid on the Novorossiysk naval base disabled the Olenegorsky Gornyak warship in what was the first major damage inflicted by a sea drone in the history of naval warfare.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the landing ship suffered “serious damage” in the attack which was a “serious blow” to the Russian navy.

Other major Ukrainian naval operations – such as the sinking of the Moskva flagship in April 2022 and the disabling of the Rostov-on-Don and Minsk warships at the port of Sevastopol in September 2023 – were conducted using missiles.

The US Navy and the Royal Navy are anticipating the possibility of facing mass attacks by the relatively cheap maritime drones in future wars.

The remotely controlled drones cost approximately £200,000 ($250,000) each and can reach speeds of up to 50mph (80kmh).

They are made from metal, are packed with explosives and are destroyed upon impact, much like the aerial suicide drones Ukraine has used to strike behind enemy lines and in Russia itself.

Ukrainian drones, sea drones and missile strikes on Russian naval assets have tipped the balance of control in the Black Sea.

Russia forced to relocate Black Sea Fleet

“We managed to seize the initiative from Russia in the Black Sea,” Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president said in November.

Russia has been forced to pull its Black Sea Fleet out of Sevastopol, the main port in occupied Crimea, and relocate it 200 miles east to Novorossiysk.

It has also agreed a deal with the separatist government of Abkhazia – internationally recognised as part of Georgia – to build a naval base at Ochamchire, a further 500 miles to the east than Novorossiysk, in a bid to neutralise the threat of Ukrainian raids.

The MoD said on Jan 22 that Ukraine has effectively forced Russia out of the western half of the Black Sea, allowing agricultural exports to surge.

“Ukraine has achieved this because it has largely prevented the Russian Black Sea Fleet from operating in the western Black Sea, where it is held at risk by Ukrainian missiles and uncrewed surface vessels,” it said.

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