Mark Galeotti Mark Galeotti

Why Ukraine’s attack on the Novocherkassk warship matters

The Crimean port of Feodosia

It was not quite in time for Christmas (which Ukraine now celebrates on 25 December, after switching this year from the Russian Orthodox Julian calendar), but Kyiv will still be celebrating today’s apparently successful Storm Shadow missile attack on a landing ship in a Crimean port. There are no seasonal ceasefires on either side in this increasingly bitter conflict.

The Ropucha-class landing ship Novocherkassk (BDK-46) had already had a rather unhappy war. In March 2022, it was damaged by Ukrainian shelling when docked in Berdyansk in occupied southern Ukraine. Later in the year the Novocherkassk, along with its sister ship, the Tsezar Kunikov, were reportedly immobilised by a lack of spare parts thanks to sanctions.

The Feodosiya attack was calculated not only to damage specific military assets, but to ram home the message that nowhere on the peninsula is safe from Ukrainian action

On 26 December, as it was anchored at the Crimean port of Feodosia, the Novocherkassk seems to have been hit by one of a number of British-supplied Storm Shadow air-launched cruise missile fired from two Ukrainian Su-24 bombers (which the Russians claimed they subsequently shot down). Moscow has confirmed that the Novocherkassk was damaged, but Kyiv claims it was destroyed. Footage from Feodosia shows large explosions and fires.

On one level, it is legitimate to ask whether this is a big deal. It is not the first time Feodosia has been hit, nor is the loss of a landing ship militarily crucial ­­– given that the days when Russia could plausibly mount amphibious operations against Ukrainian targets are long gone. These large vessels still have some role as transports – Kyiv claimed the Novocherkassk was carrying Iranian Shahed drones, although it is hard to see why, as it had not recently visited other ports and it would be a pretty illogical place for long-term storage.

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