The Sunday Post (Newcastle)

As 40 countries meet in Saudi Arabia to discuss an end to the conflict Ukrainian drone hits ‘powerful’ Russian tanker in Black Sea battlegrou­nd’s latest attack

- By Mark Aitken

A Ukrainian drone full of explosives hit a Russian tanker in a second sea attack ahead of countries meeting to discuss trying to end the war.

The attacks highlighte­d Ukraine’s growing ability to strike in the Black Sea, which is becoming an increasing­ly important battlegrou­nd in the war.

The Russian oil and chemical tanker was hit by the small, unmanned vessel packed with dynamite late on Friday night in the Kerch Strait.

Dramatic footage onboard the drone showed it travelling at speed on the water surface and the signal cutting out as it reached the ship.

The engine room was damaged and tug boats were sent to help the stricken ship.

Russian officials said there were no casualties among the 11 crew members but that several were wounded by broken glass.

A Ukrainian security service source said the drone was filled with 450kg of TNT.

“The tanker was well loaded with fuel, so the ‘fireworks’ were seen from afar,” the source said.

The source also described the ship as “one of the most powerful oil tankers of the Russian Federation”.

The tanker has been under United States sanctions for helping provide jet fuel to Russian forces fighting in Syria.

The attack briefly halted traffic on the Kerch Bridge, the 12-mile link between Moscow-annexed Crimea and Russia, as well as ferry transport.

Vasyl Malyuk, who leads Ukraine’s Security Service, while not specifying that Ukraine was responsibl­e for the explosion, said drone strikes were “an absolutely logical and effective step with regard to the enemy.”

Earlier, a Russian warship was struck and put out of action in the Black Sea port of Novorossiy­sk.

The Olenegorsk­y Gornyak had been used to transport troops and armoured vehicles into occupied Ukrainian ports.

The strike halted maritime traffic for several hours and marked the first time a commercial Russian port has been targeted in the war that has lasted nearly 18 months.

Ukrainian defence ministry spokesman Andriy Yusov said the Russian landing ship “will not be seen in the near future”.

He said: “What they thought would work to their advantage, namely their fleet, in modern conditions does not seem so invulnerab­le to other smaller but more modern means.”

A Ukrainian government agency also said yesterday that six Russian Black Sea ports were in a “war risk area”.

Moscow has bombed Ukrainian ports since its withdrawal last month from a UN-brokered deal to let Ukraine export grain.

But former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev yesterday warned of more attacks on Ukrainian ports.

Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s security council, which met yesterday, said: “Scumbags and freaks understand only cruelty and force. Apparently, the strikes on Odesa, Izmail and other places were not enough for them.”

Meanwhile, talks began in Saudi Arabia yesterday in an effort to find a peaceful settlement to end the war in Ukraine.

National security advisers and other senior officials from about 40 countries met to discuss how to end the conflict.

Russia did not attend but the Kremlin said it would “keep an eye” on the two-day meeting.

However, China, which claims to be neutral but has been criticised by Western countries for refusing to condemn Russia, sent its special envoy for Eurasian affairs, Li Hui, to the talks.

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 ?? ?? Top left and right: Russian ships under attack. Left: The warship is towed away for repairs.
Top left and right: Russian ships under attack. Left: The warship is towed away for repairs.

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