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Ukraine drone attack damages Russian tanker near Crimea

Ukraine carried out a drone strike overnight on a Russian tanker in the Kerch Strait, a day after one of Moscow’s ships was hit in the Black Sea, according to Ukrainian security.

It was the latest attack around the Black Sea since Moscow exited a deal last month that had protected Ukrainian grain exports despite the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

“Overnight the (Ukrainian Security Service) SBU blew up the ‘SIG’, a large oil tanker of the Russian Federation that was transporting fuel for Russian troops,” the Ukrainian source said.

The “successful special operation”, which involved a naval drone and explosives, was carried out jointly with the navy on Ukrainian territorial waters, the source said, adding that the ship was “well-loaded with fuel, so the ‘fireworks’ could be seen from afar”.

In a video obtained by an international news agency purporting to show the attack, a vessel is seen approaching a large ship before the connection cuts off. The Russian tanker SIG was hit around 11:20 pm (2020 GMT) Friday south of the Kerch Strait, Russia’s Federal Agency for Sea and Inland Water Transport said.

The oil and chemical tanker is under US sanctions for supplying jet fuel to Russian forces in Syria supporting President Bashar al-Assad.

The SIG suffered a hole at the waterline in the area of the engine room, “presumably as a result of an attack by a marine drone”, the agency said on Telegram. “The ship is afloat.”

‘Fireworks’

An oil boom had been placed around it vessel and preparations were under way to patch the damage, it said.

Russia’s state news agency said there were no casualties, citing the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre of Novorossiysk.

Traffic on a key bridge across the Kerch Strait linking the Moscow-annexed Crimean peninsula to Russia’s mainland was halted for around three hours and resumed early Saturday, according to the Russian highways information centre’s Telegram channel.

Crimea has been disrupted by several strikes throughout the war, but it has seen more frequent attacks in recent weeks.

Ukrainian drone strikes on Crimea in July blew up an ammunition depot and damaged the strategic bridge across the Kerch Strait.

Attacks have intensified on the Black Sea overall since Russia pulled out of an agreement protecting exports via the shipping hub during the conflict between the two countries.

‘Put to an end’

On Friday Ukraine said it carried out a seaborne-drone strike on the Olenegorsky Gornyak, a Russian warship, at the Novorossiysk naval base in southern Russia.

“The goal was to show that Ukraine can attack any Russian warship in that zone,” according to security source.

“The presence of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea… will be put to an end,” Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said after the Friday attack.

Russia said it had repelled an attempted attack on the naval base by the Ukrainian armed forces “with the use of two unmanned sea boats”.

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