Years after capturing almost all Ukrainian naval vessels and decimating the Ukrainian Navy, the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has announced that it destroyed the last standing Ukrainian naval vessel in a missile strike two days ago.
The spokesperson of the Russian MoD, Igor Konashenkov, informed the reporters in a daily briefing on the war that “The last warship of the Ukrainian Navy, the Yuriy Olefirenko, was destroyed at a warship mooring in the port of Odesa.”
He said the ship was struck on May 29 by “high-precision weapons” but stopped short of providing specific details about the attack.
Yuri Olefirenko is a mid-size Project 773 landing ship of the Ukrainian Navy. It was stationed at the Southern Naval Base in Donuzlav from the time of her original commissioning in 1971 until the Russian Federation’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Yuri Olefirenko was later moved to Ochakiv.
When asked whether the claims made by the Russian MoD were true, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Navy, Oleh Chalyk, said he would not address any claims made by Russia and asserted that the Ukrainian Navy would not divulge any details regarding wartime casualties.
It is reported that a fire broke out on the deck, which caused the detonation of ammunition in the hold. After that, the Yuri Olefirenko sank. There are significant losses among the ship's crew. pic.twitter.com/QumHTAbg6m
— Djole ?? (@onlydjole) May 30, 2023
Russia reportedly launched an attack on a military target in western Ukraine that triggered a fire in the Black Sea port of Odesa and damaged five Ukrainian aircraft. EurAsian Times could not independently verify the Russian claims.
The Russian MoD, on its part, stated that large-scale combat was currently taking place in the Donetsk region. The ministry also informed the media that “fierce fighting” was continuing around Avdiivka, which has been largely razed to the ground during months of fighting.
As for the vessel that Russia has claimed to have destroyed, there were speculations that at one point that the Yuriy Olefirenko amphibious landing ship was being used to make additional gains in the Kinburn Split by the Ukrainians after they recaptured Kherson.
When Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, the 52-year-old Yuri Olefirenko was one of two sizable warships that comprised most of the Ukrainian Navy’s front-line forces.
The other was frigate Hetman Sahaidachny which was allegedly scuttled by its crew during the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, and at least a dozen additional ships were reportedly captured or sunk.
The flagship of the Ukrainian navy Hetman Sahaidachny has been reportedly scuttled in Mykolaiv, Satellite Imagery from Feb 28 shows the ship close to the pier at the time. pic.twitter.com/xr6ODLaKrX
— Orion Intel (@Orion__int) March 4, 2022
At least once, Russian forces attempted to attack the landing craft. A Russian operator located Yuri Olefirenko off of Ochakiv in June. At least 16 Russian artillery munitions were raining down as the Ukrainian sailors took evasive measures.
The old ship not only survived the attack, but five months later, she allegedly launched WM-18 missiles from her deck to retaliate against the Russians.
It had earlier been noted that the slow and archaic Yuri Olefirenko amphibious ship was vulnerable to enemy artillery and aircraft. However, the fact that an attack was repelled at a time when the Russians had a complete advantage over the sea gave way to optimism that the vessel would survive the war.
Although Ukraine had not confirmed its destruction, losing this vessel would be symbolic as Russia had wiped out almost the entire Ukrainian Navy when it first attacked the country in 2014 and annexed Crimea.
How Russia Decimated The Ukrainian Navy
Russia absorbed both people and land when it annexed Crimea in 2014. Back then, pro-Russian forces seized two Crimean navy bases and captured Ukraine’s naval chief.
The several hundred militiamen who captured the base in Sevastopol met no resistance. According to reporters present on-site at the time, several Ukrainian crew filed out of the base under the watchful gaze of Russian soldiers while pro-Moscow militias lowered the Ukrainian flag.
There was little resistance when the several hundred militiamen took over the base in Sevastopol. Hundreds of pro-Kremlin protestors and masked Russian servicemen assaulted the major Ukrainian navy headquarters in the historic Black Sea port city of Sevastopol while dozens of defeated Ukrainian soldiers streamed out.
In the process, though, and with less notice, Russia also captured most of Ukraine’s helicopters, its shipbuilding capabilities, and 75% of its navy force.
The Ukrainian Navy had to effectively start over without the Sevastopol Naval Base. There was just one frigate left in the fleet at the time, a ship that was already deployed, and 70% of the naval staff either deserted or were fired.
The Russian onslaught on whatever remained of the minuscule Ukrainian Navy did not stop there. In 2018, Russia reportedly fired on and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels (two gunboats and a tug) off the Crimean Peninsula in a major escalation of tensions between the two countries.
After much back and forth, Russia finally handed over the three vessels to Ukraine in the Black Sea off the coast of Crimea a year later, in 2019. The sailors captured with the ships had been released two months before the vessels were returned.
However, little has remained of the Ukrainian Navy after the Sevastopol seizure in 2014, which now serves as the headquarter of Russia’s Black Sea fleet. Although the US and other Western countries contributed to rebuilding the service by supplying patrol boats, the impact hasn’t been significant for an entire fleet decimated at once.
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