Ukraine claims strikes on Russian warship and airbase in occupied Crimea

Patients and staff evacuated from Kharkiv-region hospital after Russian bombing

Kyiv said it sank a Russian warship and hit an enemy airbase with long-range strikes on occupied Crimea, as Moscow’s forces continued to pound eastern Ukraine, forcing dozens of patients to be evacuated from a bombed hospital in the beleaguered Kharkiv region.

Ukraine’s GUR military intelligence agency released what appeared to be night-vision footage of marine drones weaving towards a warship as gunfire strafes the waves. Several explosions seem to take place on the ship, which is seen sinking in the final frame of the clip.

“On the night of January 31 – February 1, 2024, soldiers of special unit ‘Group 13′ of the main intelligence directorate of the ministry of defence of Ukraine destroyed the missile ship Ivanovets of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation,” GUR said alongside the video.

“The enemy ship was patrolling the Black Sea close to Lake Donuzlav, near occupied Crimea. As a result of a series of direct hits to the hull, the Russian ship suffered damage incompatible with further movement – the Ivanovets rolled to stern and sank. The value of the ship lost by the aggressor state is approximately $60-70 million [€55–64 million].”


Moscow did not comment on Ukraine’s claim, but at least one of Russia’s military bloggers – many of whom have close links to its armed forces – said the Ivanovets sank after being hit by three marine drones. He said nothing about the fate of its crew.

The Ukrainian navy said such a ship usually carried 40 sailors: “This is quite a significant loss, considering that there are only three such boats ... in the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation, and that their weaponry includes Moskit anti-ship missiles with a range of up to 130km.”

The attack came just hours after Ukraine’s military said it had hit a Russian-held airfield in Crimea, alongside footage of at least one missile striking a target that was reportedly the Belbek airbase near Sevastopol, headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

“Ukrainian aviators will definitely return to their home airfield. And for now, I thank everyone who participated in purging Crimea of the Russian presence,” Ukrainian air force commander Mykola Oleshchuk said on social media.

The defence ministry in Moscow said air defence units had shot down 20 Ukrainian missiles over or close to Crimea. Debris from one fell near the Belbek airbase but did not damage military equipment, the ministry claimed.

Ukraine has liberated little territory over the last year but has stepped up attacks on enemy supply lines and military and industrial targets in occupied areas and Russia itself. The Black Sea Fleet has moved most of its ships from Crimea in response to the strikes, allowing Ukraine to increase cargo shipments from its southern ports.

Russia has intensified drone and ballistic missile attacks on Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region in recent weeks, and on Wednesday night a hospital in the region was bombed, forcing the evacuation in freezing weather of 33 patients and five staff.

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Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe