Ukraine said on Saturday it had destroyed a Russian military landing ship near the island of Serpents in the Black Sea. In April, Ukrainian forces sank Russia’s main combat ship present in the region.
The Ukrainian navy revealed in a Facebook post that a Turkish-developed Bayraktar TB2 war drone “hit a project 11770 Serna landing ship and two Tor-type ground-to-air missile systems” belonging to Russia. The date of the shooting, not confirmed by Moscow, was not communicated.
“The traditional parade of the Russian fleet on May 9 will take place at the bottom of the sea, on the island of Serpents”, mocked the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.
In videos published by the Ukrainian army, a ship moored near a pier is hit by an explosion and then is ravaged by flames, causing a large plume of smoke. At 26 meters in length, the Serna belongs to a class of Russian fast-landing vessels, with a payload capacity of 45 tons. The ship is armed with 7.62 mm caliber machine guns and Igla missile launchers, and is designed for landing combat vehicles and troops.
Earlier, the Ukrainian army had claimed in early May that it had bombed two Russian Raptor-class patrol boats on Serpents Island, also hit by Bayraktar TB2 combat drones.
In mid-April, the jewel of the Russian fleet Moskva sank in the Black Sea after being hit by Ukrainian missiles, according to Kiev and Washington. Moscow claimed, in turn, that it had been damaged by an explosion on board.
The Isle of Serpents has become a symbol of resistance in Ukraine since a radio exchange that went viral on social media. On the first day of the conflict, February 24, Ukrainian border guards shouted “Fuck you, Russian military ship!” to the cruiser Moskva, who ordered them to surrender. Shortly after, the ship bombed the island, the Russians took control, and the Ukrainian soldiers were arrested. They were later released in a prisoner exchange with Moscow, but the recording of the conversation served as motivation for the Ukrainian resistance.
Withdrawal of civilians from power plant continues
Meanwhile, Russia’s offensive in Ukraine has not stopped, even in devastated Mariupol in the southeast, where Kiev has announced that another 50 people have been evacuated from the massive Azovstal steelworks. Combatants and civilians remain entrenched in the last stronghold of resistance in the city.
On Saturday morning (7), the Ukrainian General Staff said that Russian forces were continuing their offensive in this large industrial complex, despite the truce declared unilaterally by Moscow since Thursday, for three days. So far, around 500 civilians have been evacuated from Azovstal thanks to humanitarian corridors organized by the UN and the Red Cross.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said “50 women, children and the elderly” managed to escape on Friday and operations continued on Saturday. According to her, Russian troops “constantly violate” the ceasefire, which is why the rescue of civilians has been “extremely slow”.
The city’s last fighters, belonging to the Azov battalion, are also entrenched in the steel mill’s intricate labyrinth of underground passages, along with civilians, some of them wounded.
Final stretch before May 9
“Mariupol will never fall … It’s devastated, there’s nothing left, everything has been destroyed,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday at a videoconference organized by London’s Chatham House think tank.
Oleksii Arestovich, adviser to the Ukrainian president, denounced that Russia “is trying to liquidate Azovstal’s supporters and is trying to do so before May 9, as a gift to Vladimir Putin.”
Every year on this date, Russia celebrates the Day of Soviet Victory over Nazi Germany in 1945 with a grand military parade in Moscow’s Red Square. This Saturday, the last rehearsals for the parade were held in the Russian capital.
Vladimir Putin’s speech will be another occasion for the president to address Western leaders and issue fresh warnings, after Russian officials mentioned the threat of using nuclear weapons on several occasions in recent weeks.
With information from AFP