A dramatic video, from Russian sources, shows a Ukrainian warship under attack from artillery. At least 16 rounds are seen landing near the ship, some less than 200 feet away. Yet the ship appears to escape, substantially undamaged.
The footage appears to come from a drone which was being used to spy for ye artillery. As is often the case with the fog of war, there are still uncertainties about the ultimate fate of the ship. However, Naval News has been able to substantiate key aspects of the video, confirming the presence of the ship there a few hours before the attack.
Additionally, the video does not show the ship suffering a direct hit, or sinking. This is noteworthy as, if it had sunk, the Russian sources would likely have shown it.
The Ship: Yuri Olefirenko
The ship, Yuri Olefirenko, is a project 773 Polnocny-C class landing ship. Built in Poland in 1970, it served with the Soviet Navy during the Cold War. It was transferred to the Ukrainian Navy in 1994, but later taken over by the Russian Navy when they annexed Crimea in 2014. Later returned to the Ukrainian Navy, she has been one of its few large ships since.
There had been reports from Russian sources that it was captured again by the Russian Navy during the invasion. But with the fog of war, these reports appear erroneous.
The Ukrainian Navy was much smaller than the Russian assets in the area and is ships were dispersed, many not ideally placed for the war which ensued. Geography was not on their side. This led to its largest warship, the Krivak class frigate Hetman Sahaidachny, being scuttled. And several warships and gunboats were captured. Yuri Olefirenko it seems, escaped. 100 days into the war, she was still active.
Out Gunned, But Resourceful, Ukraine Fights Back
Although the Ukrainian Navy’s surface fleet was largely written off, Ukraine as found other ways to counter Russia’s naval dominance. Ukrainian Navy Bayraktar TB-2 drones and land based anti-ship scored major successes. Not least the sinking of Russia’s flagship, the Slava class cruiser Moskva which was hit by Neptune missiles on April 13.
In the port city of Berdyansk, historically important for grain exports, Ukraine managed to blow up a another Russian ship. The Alligator class landing ship is similar to (but larger than) Yuri Olefirenko. This ship appears to have been transporting ammunition. The ship sank, and with more Russian landing ships were damaged.
Now more anti-ship missiles are joining Ukraine’s ranks, delivered from NATO-country stocks. The tide is slowly turning. But for surface ships like Yuri Olefirenko, survival is still the name of the game.
Update: Since publishing this article, Naval News has been able to confirm, through multiple sources, that Yuri Olefirenko is still operational.