Wreckage of Russian warship the Orsk smoulders in satellite pictures

Putin’s Navy underwater: Wreckage of Russian warship the Orsk is spotted by satellite in port of Berdyansk after it was blown up by Ukrainian missile

  • The Ukrainian navy said early Thursday that it had struck the Orsk, a 370ft Russian Alligator-class tank carrier
  • Satellite images today showed thick black smoke rising into the air from the partially sunk warship
  • The Orsk was struck by a Ukrainian missile as it was sitting at anchor in the captured port of Berdyansk 
  • Southern port city has been occupied by Russian forces since February 27. Two other ships were damaged

The wreckage of a sinking Russian warship was left smouldering in a Ukrainian port on Friday after the country’s navy scored a direct hit on the vessel the day before, incredible satellite images showed.

The Ukrainian navy said Thursday that it had struck the Orsk, a 370ft Russian Alligator-class tank carrier, as it was sitting at anchor in the captured port of Berdyansk, in the south of Ukraine. 

Satellite images taken today from above the port showed a huge plume of thick smoke rising into the air from the blackened wreckage of the destroyed ship that appeared to be sinking into the ocean.

Multiple photos and videos on Thursday showed smoke rising from the port as one ship sat at the harbour in flames, while another two sailed away – one of which also appeared to be damaged.

Ukraine also claimed two more ships were damaged and a 3,000-ton fuel tank was destroyed when the Orsk was sunk, causing a fire that spread to nearby ammunition supplies. 

Just three days before the strike, Russian state media had filmed the Orsk at the port unloading armoured vehicles which it said would reinforce troops in nearby Mariupol – prompting speculation that Ukraine could use the video to target the vessel. 

The wreckage of a sinking Russian warship – the Orsk – was left smouldering in a Ukrainian port today after the country’s navy scored a direct hit on the vessel on Thursday, incredible satellite images showed (pictured)

The Ukrainian navy said early Thursday that it had struck the Orsk, a 370ft Russian Alligator-class tank carrier, as it was sitting at anchor in the captured port of Berdyansk, in the south of Ukraine. Satellite images taken today from above the port showed a huge plume of thick smoke rising into the air from the blackened wreckage of the destroyed ship

The Ukrainian navy has destroyed an Alligator-class Russian landing ship and damaged two others which were unloading reinforcements and supplies at the captured port of Berdyansk, in the south of Ukraine

One vessel was shown consumed by fire (left) as two other boats fled (centre), at least one of which also appeared to be on fire though was able to escape the port

Flames and smoke are seen rising from what appears to be a Russian Alligator-class landing ship docked at the port of Berdyansk, in southern Ukraine, after Kyiv’s navy claimed to have destroyed a vessel called Orsk

A Ukrainian ballistic missile struck the 112-metre Alligator-class Orsk vessel on Thursday, causing huge explosions in the port of Berdyansk. As flames broke out on board the veseel, two other Russian ships also damaged in the strike – one apparently ablaze – hastily put to sea.

The attack, a major morale boost for the Ukrainians, was caught on film and beamed around the world.

Berdyansk – that lies 50 miles south-west of the besieged city of Mariupol – has been under Russian control since February 27. Earlier this week, a Moscow TV channel broadcast images of supplies and armoured vehicles being unloaded from the Orsk.

But the propaganda was spotted by Ukrainian forces and at 7am on Thursday, an OTR-21 Tochka missile struck the Orsk, which has a displacement of 4,000 tons when fully loaded. 

The ship, which is capable of carrying 20 tanks and 400 troops, partially sank after the fire burned out of control and ignited ammunition on board.

Blazes were extinguished on board a pair of Ropucha-class landing ships docked alongside as they escaped eastwards, but they appeared to be seriously damaged. 

UK intelligence reports questioned why Russia left such an important vessel in place for several days with ineffective cover – particularly after heralding its arrival.

According to these reports, the blast damaged facilities at the port – which can only hold up to five vessels – hampering Russian hopes of unloading more landing craft.

One report said: ‘Not only has Russia’s ability to bring in support been curtailed, likely slowing offensive operations in the south, but three of its 11 landing ships in the Black Sea have been lost or damaged.

‘The incident suggests poor damage control or ammunition handling and is further indication of sub-par Russian performance.’

Berdyansk is of strategic significance to the Kremlin as part of its plan to cut off Ukraine from the sea.

Its capture helps the Russians build a bridge between Crimea in the south and the Donbas region in the east, areas already under Russian control when the invasion was launched a month ago.

Many of those fleeing Mariupol have sought refuge in the city, which has seen many protests against the invasion despite being occupied by the Russians.  

Smoke and flames rise over the port of Berdyansk, located in the south of Ukraine and occupied by Russian forces, as Kyiv’s navy claimed to have hit the Orsk – a huge Russian tank-carrier

Images show an explosion at the port with a Russian Alligator-class transport ship visible at the dock. It was not immediately clear from the images whether the port or the ship had been struck

A fireball rises into the air over the port of Berdyansk, a Ukrainian port on the Sea of Azov which has been captured by Russian forces and was being used to ferry reinforcements to shore before it was struck

If the Orsk is confirmed as destroyed it would mark the largest vessel Ukraine has hit and another embarrassing loss for Vladimir Putin’s army

Adding to Putin’s woes, Western officials said Friday that Ukraine has managed to disable 20 Russian battalions, while a Kremlin army chief hinted that Moscow may scale back its attack on its neighbour and instead focus on ‘liberating’ the eastern Donbas region. 

Russia’s defence ministry also updated its losses in Ukraine to 1,351 soldiers, adding that 3,825 soldiers had been wounded – figures that are far lower than Western intelligence estimates that put Moscow’s losses in the tens of thousands.

In a military update, Moscow attempted to put a positive spin on its disastrous invasion saying that the first phase of its military campaign in Ukraine was over.

But the update – combined with the West’s claim that Russia has lost 20 out of the 120 battalions originally massed on Ukraine’s border – is the latest sign that Putin has rolled back his ambitions, and is on the run.

In another embarrassing blow to Putin, it was revealed today that a Russian brigade commander had died after being run down with a tank by his own troops.

Western officials believe Colonel Yuri Medvedev was brutally taken out by mutinous soldiers after their 37th Motor Rifle Brigade suffered huge losses. 

But despite the apparent change in tactics, smaller-scale strikes continued without pause as Russia, suffering heavy losses and meagre progress against key targets, pursues its relentless campaign of bombardment against Ukraine’s cities.

In one attack on Friday, Ukraine said a Russian missile attack had hit a military command centre in the city of Vinnytsia in central Ukraine. Kyiv officials reported the attack on Friday, adding it was unknown if there were any casualties. 

‘Today at around 4.30 p.m, the Russian occupiers launched a missile strike on the territory of the Air Force Command in Vinnytsia,’ the Ukrainian Air Force said on Telegram. 

It posted an image of the alleged centre in rubble and said missiles had hit ‘several buildings, causing significant damage to infrastructure’.      

When Russia unleashed its multi-pronged invasion on February 24, a swift toppling of Ukraine and its democratically elected government seemed likely.

But as Wednesday marked four full weeks of fighting, Russia has been bogged down in a grinding military campaign with no sign of progress.

The slow Russian advance has seemingly taken the Kremlin by surprise, and Western officials have said that Moscow made a ‘catastrophic miscalculation’.

Russia attempted to re-frame its war goals in a way that may make it easier for Putin to claim a face-saving victory despite a woeful campaign in which his army has suffered humiliating setbacks, military analysts say.  

Ukraine has disabled 20 Russian battalions, Western officials said today, as a Kremlin army chief hinted that Moscow may scale back its all-out attack on its neighbour and instead focus on ‘liberating’ the eastern Donbas region. Pictured: (L-R) Sergei Rudskoi, a senior representative of the General Staff, Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov and Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the Russian National Defence Control Centre, hold a briefing on Russian military action in Ukraine, in Moscow on March 25, 2022

In a potentially significant shift in Moscow’s tactics, Sergei Rudskoi, chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of Russia’s armed forces, said the first phase of its campaign was over and its troops would now focus on the ‘liberation’ of the Donbas region in Ukraine’s east.

Rudskoi said the shift was possible because ‘the combat potential of Ukraine’s armed forces has been significantly reduced which allows (us) – I emphasise once again – to focus our main efforts on achieving the main goal – the liberation of Donbas.’

The Donbas is the largely Russian-speaking eastern part of the country where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014 and where many residents have expressed support for Moscow. 

In the eight years of fighting, at least 14,000 people have been killed in the region. 

Rudskoi claimed Russian forces had ‘practically’ destroyed Ukraine’s air force and anti-aircraft defences as well as the navy. 

But Rudskoi’s comments were contradicted by Ukraine and Britain’s Ministry of Defence, which said Russian forces were being pushed back.

‘Ukrainian counter-attacks, and Russian forces falling back on overextended supply lines, has allowed Ukraine to re-occupy towns and defensive positions up to 35 kilometres (22 miles) east of Kyiv,’ Britain’s defence ministry said in a daily update. 

In the south, logistical problems and Ukrainian resistance are slowing the Russians as they look to drive west toward the port of Odesa, the ministry added. 

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba indicated no let-up in his country’s refusal to accede to Russian demands after what he termed ‘very difficult’ talks with Moscow.

‘We insist, first of all, on a ceasefire, security guarantees, and territorial integrity of Ukraine,’ he said.  

A cyclist rides past by houses destroyed by shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine on March 25, 2022

And while Mariupol and other places are now charred ruins, Western systems including shoulder-fired anti-tank missiles have helped Ukraine’s armed forces hold their line – and increasingly to go on the offensive.

‘Obviously they have completely failed in everything they’ve set out to do and so now they are redefining what the purpose is so they can declare victory,’ Ben Hodges, a former commander of U.S. army forces in Europe who now works for the Center for European Policy Analysis, said of Russia’s latest update.

‘Clearly they do not have the ability to continue sustained large-scale offensive operations… Their logistics problems have been apparent to everybody, they’ve got serious manpower issues and the resistance has been way beyond anything they could have possibly imagined.’ 

A Western official said Russia’s failure to organise so far has been ‘remarkable’, pouring scorn on the claims that it had achieved the main military objectives.

They said that losses had been ‘really high’ in some areas. At the outset 115-120 battalion tactical groups were in the Russian force, but 20 battalions were now not thought to be ‘combat effective’ and had been withdrawn, either because repairs were needed to vehicles or because of massive losses.

In some instances three battalions had been merged together to redeploy.

A Russian battalion typically consists of approximately 600 to 800 officers and soldiers, 200 of which are infantrymen equipped with around 10 tanks and 40 infantry fighting vehicles – such as armoured troop carriers.

A NATO official estimated on Wednesday that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in four weeks of war in Ukraine, and added that between 30,000 to 40,000 Russian soldiers are estimated to have been killed or wounded in total.

By comparison, Moscow lost about 15,000 soldiers in Afghanistan over 10 years.

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