On Friday night, Ukraine launched an attack on the Crimean port of Sevastopol. Russian sources have reported that this attack included at least nine UAVs (drones) and seven UMV (automated boats). Ukrainian sources have called these claims ridiculous. But however it was achieved, there are reports of damage to a number of Russian naval vessels, including the Frigate Admiral Makarov. At least three of the ships damaged are reportedly those which were have launched Kalibr missiles into Ukrainian cities.
Images from the event show a series of explosions. In the immediate aftermath, Russian news outlets attributed the blasts to a “training exercise.” Then Russia claimed that Ukraine had launched their incredible air-sea drone combo punch, but had only taken out a fishing trawler. Russia later acknowledge damage to a minesweeper.
However, it was evident from the beginning that several large ships were ablaze in the harbor. With the coming of the morning, some of these ships can be identified. The Admiral Makarov — a 122m (400’) long ship that was just launched in 2015 — appears to have suffered heavy damage and has now been burning for hours. The harbor may be too shallow for it to join the cruiser Moskva at the bottom of the sea, but there’s little doubt that the Makarov will be out of action for an extended period.
The power of the explosions is clear. Less clear is what Ukraine actually used to carry out this mission (based on recent experience, Russia is likely to blame NATO-trained dolphins and attack mosquitos). Adding to the wonder over just how badly Russia handled this, even on the propaganda front, just minutes before the explosions Russian officials reported that Ukraine had launched drones toward Sevastopol, but all those drones have been destroyed.
In April, Russian ships were forced to move farther away from the Ukrainian coast after Ukraine gave a vivid demonstration of their ability, and of Russia’s inadequate defenses, by sinking the Moskva, which was at that point the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. With the Moskva out of action, Russia needed a new flagship and, this is true, the selection was … the Admiral Makarov. So Ukraine may have just sunk the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet. Again.
In September, Russia reportedly relocated its Kilo-class submarines from Sevastopol to the Russian port of Novorossiysk in Krasnodar Krai. This came after a series of explosions in Crimea whose origin seemed to baffle the Russian military. Some planes from Crimean air fields were also relocated back to the other side of the soon-to-be damaged Kerch Bridge. However, Sevastopol is almost 300km from the nearest Ukrainian-controlled territory, well outside of the longest range attack from HIMARS and at the limit of operations for the Bayraktar drone. Despite the handful of earlier explosions, it seemed that Russia didn’t think its Black Sea Fleet was in serious danger.
They thought wrong. Those subs over at Novorossiysk better make room. They’re likely to have some new neighbors … assuming those neighbors are capable of making the journey. And now I’m going to link my own tweet, because I want to share the meme, and because I can barely resist typing “wessels” every time it comes up.
Because the border between liberated territory and Russian occupation in the south has changed so slightly over the last six months, we rarely look too closely at what’s going on all along the line from south of Bakhmut over to Kamyanske. But there are a whole line of hero towns along that front; towns that have been forced to withstand daily shelling from Russian artillery day after day, week after week, and month after month. Before the war, Orikhiv was a town of around 20,000, making it larger than Lyman, smaller than Izyum. As with Bakhmut, Russia has made almost endless attempts to advance into this area. Those attempts have all been unsuccessful, but the damage to this beautiful old town, formerly home to a large group of Mennonites, is heartbreaking.
This morning I need to offer both a retraction and an apology. The retraction comes because, after I published the initial update yesterday, I updated again with news that Ukrainian forces had crossed the P66 highway north of Kreminna and were in control of the road. In particular, the town of Ploshchanka was mentioned as the site of this important change in control.
My sources on this were a pair of highly reliable Ukrainian Telegram accounts, and their sources were even better—because the statement came from Serhii Haidai, head of Ukraine’s Armed Forces in Luhansk. That would seem hard to beat.
Hard, but not impossible. Because hours later, the commander of Operational Command “East,” Major General Serhiy Nayev, called out Haidai by name for spreading false information and potentially causing damage to Ukrainian operations in the area. According to Nayev, Ukraine holds fire control over an extended stretch of the highway, but is not in physical possession of the highway in the area Haidai cited.
Whether this means that Ukraine has taken the road, but doesn’t want it talked about, or hasn’t taken the road and is angry that Haidai jumped the gun, or whether this is all still another level of OpSec … I don’t know. But for now, I’m pulling back that control line and saying “never mind” to the update stating that Ukraine held the highway near Ploshchanka.
The apology comes because I had hinted at a second update yesterday, but didn’t actually get that accomplished. In part, that was because some asshole broke into Nancy Pelosi’s house hoping to murder her and ended up sending her 82-year-old husband to the hospital for emergency surgery.
But it was also because I got involved in a project that is Coming Soon. Here’s your sneak peak…