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Ukraine says it has sunk another warship, disabling a third of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet

<i>Defense Intelligence of Ukraine/Telegram</i><br/>
Defense Intelligence of Ukraine/Telegram

By Victoria Butenko, Christian Edwards and Alex Stambaugh, CNN

(CNN) — Ukraine claims it has now disabled a third of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet after its military intelligence said it sank another Russian warship in a sea drone attack off the coast of Crimea on Wednesday.

Russia’s landing ship Caesar Kunikov was attacked with “MAGURA” V5 drones that punctured “critical holes” on its left side before sinking, the Ukrainian military intelligence agency said on Telegram.

“Ukraine has disabled a third of the Russian Black Sea Fleet during the large-scale invasion,” the country’s armed forces told CNN after Wednesday’s attack.

That aligns with Ukrainian claims last week that they had disabled about 33% of Russia’s warships, amounting to 24 disabled ships and one submarine. The landing ship Caesar Kunikov would be the 25th disabled ship, according to Ukraine’s count.

Wednesday’s attack was conducted by the agency’s “Group 13” special forces unit in cooperation with Ukraine’s security and defense forces, the statement said.

Night-time footage provided by Ukraine showed a sea drone racing toward the Caesar Kunikov, before a huge plume of smoke rose from the vessel.

The Defense Intelligence of Ukraine said the ship had been moored for 10 days at a specialized berthing location where Russia could load it with weapons and military equipment. It also said the ship appeared to be loaded at the time of the attack.

CNN could not independently verify Ukraine’s claims. The Kremlin declined to comment on the reported attack.

“This has to do with the course of the special military operation, so it is the prerogative of the Ministry of Defense. I suggest you refer to the statements of our military colleagues. I can’t say anything about this,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in a news briefing.

Wednesday’s attack is the latest in a series of Ukrainian strikes on Russia’s navy, as it tries to land both strategic and symbolic blows against Russian forces that annexed Crimea in 2014.

As Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine nears its second anniversary, the frontlines have for months remained mostly static. But since last year Ukraine has pivoted to the Black Sea, saying its strikes on Crimea and Russian ships are intended to isolate the peninsula and make it more difficult for Russia to sustain its military operations on the Ukrainian mainland.

When asked about the incident in a Brussels press conference on Wednesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said broadly that “the Ukrainians have been able to inflict heavy losses on the Russian Black Sea Fleet,” and that this is a “great achievement, a great victory for Ukrainians.”

The NATO chief also noted that the fact that Ukraine’s armed forces have pushed away the Russian Black Sea fleet and opened a corridor has allowed them to export grain and other commodities to the world market.

“Few believe this was possible just a few months ago. But now actually, the export of grain from Ukraine takes place even without an agreement with Russia. So this shows the skills and the competence of the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” Stoltenberg said, adding that NATO’s support had been important.

Drones give Ukraine the advantage

Earlier this month, Ukraine said it sank the Ivanovets, a Russian guided-missile ship, also in the Black Sea. Its most notable strike was on the Moskva in April 2022, which forced Russia to change the way it operates close to areas controlled by Ukraine.

After the attack on the Ivanovets, CNN interviewed Ukraine’s secretive sea drone unit behind the strike at a location near the Ukrainian coastal city of Odesa. One of the drone pilots behind the attack told CNN that 10 “MAGURA” drones were used in the attack, six of which hit and ultimately sunk the Russian warship.

“MAGURA” drones are only a few meters long and powered by jet skis, a pilot from a special unit in Ukraine’s defense intelligence agency told CNN earlier this year.

But they have a large range of around 800 kilometers (nearly 500 miles), so military units can launch drones from across large swathes of Ukraine’s coastline for missions against Crimean targets.

Kyiv is increasingly using drones to level the playing field with Russia. Ukraine’s former top general, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, stressed the importance of drones in a CNN op-ed written earlier this month before he was removed from his post last week by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“It is these unmanned systems – such as drones – along with other types of advanced weapons, that provide the best way for Ukraine to avoid being drawn into a positional war, where we do not possess the advantage,” Zaluzhnyi wrote.

One of Ukraine’s drone pilots told CNN drones have provided an advantage in the Black Sea because “they are quite difficult to see” and their small size makes it hard for Russia to target them, while drones can target warships more easily.

“No warship can be as maneuverable as these drones,” the pilot added.

This story has been updated.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Sharon Braithwaite, James Frater, Joseph Ataman, Frederik Pleitgen, Daria Tarasova-Markina, Lauren Kent and Anna Chernova contributed reporting.

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