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Kyiv says seven dead as drone attack sinks Russian ship

Vladimir Putin’s Black Sea Fleet was hit with a fresh blow when a patrol ship was targeted by Ukrainian sea drones killing seven people, according to intelligence sources.

Ukrainian intelligence said six more were injured after the Sergei Kotov was reportedly hit off occupied Crimea.

A special operations unit destroyed the large ship overnight, the Ukrainian military intelligence agency said.

The ship, which Ukraine said was commissioned in 2021 and was hit near the Kerch Strait, reportedly can carry cruise missiles and around 60 crew.

The sinking of such a modern ship would be a significant loss and an embarrassing blow for Moscow, even though there are dozens of other vessels in its Black Sea Fleet.

British Defence Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted: “The Black Sea is not safe for Putin’s Navy. Until recently that would have been unimaginable.

“Now because the West backed Ukraine, it’s undeniable.”

Piling pressure on Republicans in America to stop blocking more support for Ukraine and Germany to send Taurus long range missiles, he added: “If we get them what they need, the bravery and skill of the Ukrainian Armed Forces can unlock victories once thought impossible.”

Ukrainska Pravda, a major Ukrainian media outlet, reported an overnight strike on the Russian Project 22160 patrol ship Sergei Kotov.

Andriy Yermak, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, said on Telegram that “the Russian Black Sea Fleet is a symbol of occupation. It cannot be in the Ukrainian Crimea”, in an apparent reference to the attack.

Ukrainian Defence Ministry footage shows the Russian ship being hit by sea drones off the Crimean coast (via REUTERS)
Ukrainian Defence Ministry footage shows the Russian ship being hit by sea drones off the Crimean coast (via REUTERS)

Later, Ukraine’s defence ministry claimed the patrol vessel had been hit.

It tweeted: “+1 russian ship was upgraded to a submarine.

“Tonight, the special unit of the @DI_Ukraine Group 13 attacked the patrol ship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Sergei Kotov, worth $65 million.

“As a result of the attack by Magura V5 naval drones, the Russian ship of project 22160, Sergei Kotov, suffered damage to the stern, right, and left sides.”

It was not clear if the vessel had sunk.

Train traffic was temporarily stopped on the Kerch bridge linking the Crimean peninsula to the Russian mainland, according to the Telegram channel of a Russia-installed official in Crimea.

Highway traffic was also suspended for several hours before reopening just before 0700 GMT, according to the Telegram channel of the Russian-installed administration managing the bridge.

Ukrainian military said last month it had destroyed a Russian landing warship near Crimea in an operation with naval drones that breached the vessel’s port side and caused it to sink.

While Putin’s ground forces are gradually gaining ground in eastern Ukraine, while reportedly suffering large casualties, his navy in the Black Sea has been forced to retreat, withdrawing some ships from Sevastopol in Crimea, according to military experts.

The flagship of his Black Sea fleet, the Moskva, was sunk in April 2022, and his air force has lost numerous planes.

However, Russia’s war economy has stepped up its output of military equipment, even if it is repairing old models, while Republicans in Washington are blocking a huge military aid package for Kyiv.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is also under pressure to send Taurus long range missiles to Ukraine.

Britain has led the way in arming Ukraine, first with anti-tank weapons, then Challenger II tanks, and Storm Shadow missiles.

Berlin has dragged its feet but is now the second largest military backer to Ukraine, behind America.