Ukraine’s armed forces say they have struck a Russian navy tugboat in the Black Sea with two Harpoon missiles – the first time Kyiv has claimed to have hit a Russian vessel with the Western-supplied anti-ship rockets.
Ukraine’s Armed Forces Strategic Communications Directorate published the information on the Telegram app, alongside a video purporting to show the strike from the air.
It shows what is thought to be an anti-ship missile striking the tug Vasily Bekh at 4am as it delivered soldiers, weapons, and ammunition to hotly-contested Snake Island.
Ukrainian sources later claimed ten sailors on the tug were missing presumed dead, and 23 wounded. The crew number was put at 33.
Harpoon missiles are anti-ship ballistics that were first developed by the US and now manufactured by Boeing. The US has sent Harpoon missiles to Ukraine while the UK and Denmark have said they will consider sending the ballistics. It was not immediately clear where these ballistics had come from.
It comes after Ukraine downed Moscow’s Black Sea fleet flagship, the Moskva, last month with two R-360 Neptune anti-ship missiles in a sinking Russia initially claimed was caused by an ammunition explosion brought on by a storm.
Kyiv claims that Russia has now lost than 33,000 troops since invading Ukraine in late February.
Meanwhile, separate footage has emerged showing a Russian helicopter crashing down in a fireball near Donetsk.
On top of those losses, a Russian Su-25 war plane crashed in a border region today during a ‘training flight’, with reports saying Russia denied it was shot down.
The losses will come as a blow to Putin’s grinding invasion of Ukraine, which is making incremental progress in the east of the country but at huge expense in lives and equipment.
Russian Black Sea Navy the tug Vasily Bekh was reportedly hit by an anti-ship missile at 4am while it was delivering troops and weapons to Snake Island
Its Tor anti air missile system failed to halt the strike but the tug remained afloat and was being evacuated for repairs after sustaining significant damage
Its Tor anti air missile system failed to halt the strike but the tug remained afloat and was being evacuated for repairs after sustaining significant damage. Pictured: The Vasily Bekh in happier times
In the Black Sea incident, the Vasily Bekh tug’s Tor anti air missile system purportedly failed to halt the Ukrainian strike but it remained afloat and was being evacuated for repairs after sustaining significant damage.
Initial claims by Ukraine were that it was hit with a Harpoon missile, however there was also speculation that either a British-supplied Brimstone missile or a ship-based missile defence system was used.
The strike on the Russian Black Sea navy tug was recorded by a loitering Bayraktar TB2 drone, although it is not thought the drone fired the missile.
The strike was initially claimed by Maxim Marchenko, head of the Odessa-based regional war administration, although the Ukrainian navy subsequently deleted the video from their Twitter account.
The Vasyl Bekh has served in the Russian Black Sea Fleet since 2017.
Meanwhile, video shows what is reported to be a Russian Mi-35M attack helicopter engulfed in flames as it is hit by an Igla MANPADS (man-portable air defence system) near the front lines in the Donetsk region.
The Igla is a Soviet-made infrared homing surface-to-air missile system from Ukraine’s original military stocks. There were conflicting reports that the missile might have been a US-supplied Stinger.
The Azov SSO batallion claimed responsibility for downing the Russian helicopter.
Intense but attritional trench and artillery warfare has been raging in Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as Vladimir Putin tries to annex the regions to Russia, having abandoned loftier aims of conquering the entire country.
The fiercest fighting of late has been seen around the town of Severdonetsk, 60 miles north of Donetsk where the attack helicopter was reported to have been shot down.
Video purports to show what is reported to be a Russian Mi-35M attack helicopter engulfed in flames as it is hit by an Igla MANPADS (man-portable air defence system) near the front lines in the Donetsk region
The helicopter manages to steam onward for a few moments even as it erupts in flames, before the catastrophic damage takes its toll
The Azov SSO later claimed responsibility for downing the Russian helicopter
Images of the wreckage of the helicopter circulated on social media after the crash
A video shows the burned wreckage of the crashed Russian SU-25 fighter on Russian territory in the Belgorod region, which shares frontiers with the Luhansk, Kharkiv and Sumy regions of Ukraine.
The cause of the crash was not immediately clear amid suspicions it could have been shot down. The crash site is some 32 miles from the Ukrainian border.
The pilot safely ejected, according to Russian reports, which denied it was hit by Ukraine.
The Russian western military district said the Su-25 was on a training flight rather than a combat mission and suggested a ‘technical malfunction’ as a possible cause.
There were also claims that it hit low power cables.
However, Readovka media outlet claimed that there are no electricity pylons in the vicinity.
An eyewitness saw two war planes had been flying and then there was suddenly a column of smoke. The second plane flew around the crash site.
‘A Su-25 crashed in the Belgorod region today during a planned training flight,’ said the Russian military statement.
The burned wreckage of the Russian SU-25 fighter on Russian territory in the Belgorod region, which shares frontiers with the Luhansk, Kharkiv and Sumy regions of Ukraine.
Pictured: Wreckage of the crashed SU-25. The Russian western military district said the Su-25 was on a training flight rather than a combat mission and suggested a ‘technical malfunction’ as a possible cause
‘The pilot ejected and was evacuated to the base airfield. There is no threat to the health of the pilot.
‘The plane crashed in a deserted place. There was no destruction on the ground.
‘According to preliminary information, a technical malfunction could be the cause of the accident.’
The Russian losses come as the head of Britain’s Armed Forces insisted Russia has already ‘strategically lost’ the war in Ukraine.
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin said Russia was ‘a more diminished power’ capable only of ‘tiny’ territorial gains after nearly four months of fighting.
It has effectively seized control of Ukraine’s eastern regions, but at a huge cost, estimated to be a quarter of its military resources, he added.
It is running out of troops and advanced missiles and would never be able to take over the remainder of the country.
He spoke as the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced the UK has bought more than 20 M109 long-range guns to send to Ukraine. The Belgian-made weapons fire 155mm shells accurate up to 25 miles.