War-Like Situation As Ukraine Drone Strikes 2nd Russian Ship In 2 Days

A Ukraine maritime drone packed with explosives reportedly rammed into an oil tanker that belongs to Russia early on Saturday off the eastern coast of Crimea. The information was received via Russian officials and a Ukrainian official—the second strike on a Russian vessel at sea within two days.

That attack coincided with a new directive from the Ukrainian maritime authority, dated Friday, warning that six Black Sea ports of Russia and their approaches would be considered war risk zones until further information. The notice expanded on a relatively less specific warning over the last month that vessels travelling to the ports based in Russia or Russia-occupied Ukraine would be considered military targets.

In short, the tanker attack — which occurred in the Kerch Strait close to a critical bridge linking the Crimean Peninsula and Russia — and Kyiv’s latest directive have ratcheted the risk of increased violence in the Black Sea. Tensions were stoked by sustained aerial assault from Russia on Ukraine’s ports since Moscow decided last month to pull back from a U.N.-brokered contract, permitting Ukraine’s grain exports.

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The moves fit into Ukraine’s emboldened tactics of taking the war into Russia’s territory, as enunciated by the president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, recently. He said it was natural, absolutely fair, and inevitable that the war gradually returned to Russian territory — to its military bases and symbolic centres.

This past week, Ukraine’s drones hit Moscow skyscraper housing government ministries twice in 24 hours. On Friday, yet another maritime drone impaired a landing vessel of Russia’s Navy close to the port of Novorossiysk, a critical naval and shipping hub on the northeastern shore of the Black Sea. A Ukrainian official acknowledged that Ukraine was behind Saturday’s attack on Russia’s tanker. The vessel was also identified by The New York Times as the Sig, which was placed under US sanctions back in 2019 for assisting Russia’s forces in Syria.

The vessel was last tracked to a position about 12 miles south of the Kerch Strait Bridge, in the waterway linking the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, per the latest satellite imagery and marine traffic data from authentic sources. Russia’s maritime authorities mentioned that the engine room of the oil tanker was impaired in the mentioned attack but that the vessel remained afloat. As said in a Telegram statement, there was no oil leakage, and no members were injured.

Soon after the tanker got hit, the crew members launched a distress call. The audio call said that the crew could not move on their own without the aid of a tugboat. They added that cargo tanks were empty, per the audio of the call corroborated with the ship tracking data by The New York Times. It was heard that the machine room was completely flooded. Per tracking data received from Pole Star, which tracks marine traffic, and a photograph verified by the Times, at least one tugboat had been dispatched to help.

Russian Foreign Ministry denounced Saturday’s strike immediately and promised to retaliate — and by the time it was evening, Zelenskyy reported that Russia had managed to launch new missile attacks on Ukraine. In the nightly address, Zelenskyy mentioned that buildings belonging to an aircraft engine manufacturer, Motor Sich, were hit in the west. He also said the missiles included hypersonic Kinzhal and Kalibr cruise missiles — the most sophisticated and conventional weapons in the Russian arsenal. He further mentioned that Ukrainian air defence forces could intercept some of those.

Later in the evening, Zelenskyy added that Kupiansk, a town in the Kharkiv region of the country’s northeast, had been attacked. In his message on social media platforms, he said there had been some casualties, but there were no further details until then. As Ukraine decides to step up long-range assaults on Russia’s targets, officials who once maintained a studied ambiguity about the strikes in Crimea and Russia have been taking credit, even if they refrain from claiming individual attacks explicitly.

Vasyl Malyuk, the head of the Security Service of Ukraine, stated on Saturday that Ukraine was solely responsible for the most recent attacks on Russian vessels, calling them a “logical” and “effective” strategy — without mentioning the strike on the mentioned oil tanker.

If Russia is willing to end the attacks, he said, they must use the only option — to leave Ukraine’s territorial waters and the land. His remarks came through a day after Ukraine’s forces hit the landing ship of Russia, the Olenegorsky Gornyak, in the port of Novorossiysk. The Novorossiysk strike wasn’t likely to yield an immediate effect on the world’s oil markets, per Eurasia Group analysts, before the tanker got struck.

But observing that crude exports from Novorossiysk typically average approximately 1.8 million barrels per day or about 2% of the global supply, the analysts added that losing such a volume in the present-day market might push oil rates to more than $100 a barrel. The Defense Intelligence Agency of Britain said that the Novorossiysk strike had significantly impaired the 370-foot-long landing vessel, dealing a major blow to the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

The agency noted further that Russia had relocated several of the units to Novorossiysk in light of the high threat to vessels in the port of Sevastopol, which lies on the west coast of Crimea in the range of Ukraine’s missiles and drones.

Kyiv’s bold strikes at sea also come through as its forces are waging a bloody and slow counteroffensive to recapture the Russian-occupied territory in the southern part of Ukraine. Being repelled by Russia’s anti-tank mines and other defences, Ukraine has shifted its strategy to degrading the fighting capability of Russia with strikes on ammunition and fuel depots in the Russian-occupied territory. However, it has yet to achieve any breakthrough.

Reference: NY Times, Japan Times, Deccan Herald

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