Russia’s Defense Ministry acknowledged that the Novocherkassk had been damaged in what appeared to be one of the most significant attacks on the Black Sea Fleet in months.
A Ukrainian missile strike hit a Russian warship moored in Crimea early on Tuesday, in what appeared to be one of the most significant attacks against Moscow’s prized Black Sea Fleet in months amid Kyiv’s intensified campaign to target the Russian-occupied peninsula.
The Ukrainian Air Force said in a statement that it had destroyed the Novocherkassk, a large landing ship, in the southeastern Crimean port of Feodosia overnight. Russia’s Defense Ministry told the Tass state news agency that the ship had been damaged in an attack using “aircraft-guided missiles,” but did not say whether the vessel had been permanently disabled.
Videos of the attack that appeared to be taken by residents and were released by the Ukrainian Air Force showed a huge explosion that produced a large fireball, followed by a giant cloud of smoke and fire billowing into the night sky.
The footage could not be immediately verified, but Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-installed governor of Crimea, said that the attack had started a fire in Feodosia. One person was killed and two others were wounded in the assault, he added.
“The fleet in Russia is getting smaller and smaller!” Mykola Oleshchuk, the commander of Ukraine’s Air Force, wrote in a post on the Telegram messaging app celebrating the strike, which he noted came after Ukrainian missiles sank the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet last year.
The Ukrainian military has long maintained that the war cannot be won without taking aim at Russian assets and operations in Crimea, which Moscow illegally annexed in 2014. In recent months, Ukraine has sharply accelerated the pace of strikes on the peninsula, which Russia’s military uses as a logistics hub for its hold on southern Ukraine — stockpiling fuel, ammunition and other supplies to be funneled to the battlefields — but also as a launchpad for attacks.
The Black Sea Fleet has fired devastating precision cruise missiles at cities and towns deep inside Ukraine. In an attempt to reduce the threat, the Ukrainian military has repeatedly targeted the fleet this year — damaging a warship in August and hitting the fleet’s headquarters a month later.
Those attacks were significant achievements for a country without warships of its own, and rare successes in a year marked by disappointing efforts to break through Russian defensive lines on the battlefield.
The Ukrainian Air Force said that it had used cruise missiles in Tuesday’s attack, which took place at around 2:30 a.m. local time in southeastern Crimea. Russia’s Defense Ministry told Tass that two Ukrainian Su-24 fighter jets involved in the attack on Feodosia had been “destroyed” — a claim that Ukraine’s military denied.
While the extent of the damage to the ship was not immediately clear, the attack hit what appeared to be a valuable target. Interfax, a Russian news agency, reported that President Vladimir V. Putin had been informed of the attack and the damage to the vessel.
The 360-foot long Novocherkassk was capable of transporting up to 10 tanks and several hundred troops, according to Russian news media, which reported that it had previously been involved in Russian military operations in Syria. About a month after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Ukraine’s Air Force said it had targeted the Novocherkassk in an attack on the Russian-occupied port of Berdyansk. In June of that year, Tass reported that the ship was part of a group of 12 vessels “ready to perform combat tasks in the Black Sea.”
Ukraine’s military said on Tuesday that it suspected that the ship was carrying Iranian-made attack drones for use in the war. Natalia Humeniuk, a spokeswoman for the Ukrainian army in the south, told national television that “it is clear that such a large detonation was caused not just by fuel or ammunition of the ship itself.”
Andrii Klymenko, the head of the Black Sea Institute of Strategic Studies, agreed. “Judging by the video of the explosion, which was very powerful, it was carrying explosives: either shells or missiles, or, as some people say, drones,” he wrote in a text message.
Mr. Klymenko noted that the port of Feodosia was close to Cape Chauda, which he said Russia has long used as a launch site for attack drones.
Data compiled by his institute shows that the Ukrainian military carried out at least 155 attacks on Crimea and the Russian Black Sea Fleet from January to October of this year — averaging one every other day. Amid the intensified campaign, Russia relocated vessels from Sevastopol harbor, the fleet’s home port.
Some of those ships, Mr. Klymenko said, were moved to the port of Novorossiysk, a Black Sea naval and shipping hub, or to the eastern side of Crimea, which was seen as less vulnerable to attacks by Ukrainian sea drones. But Tuesday’s attack on Feodosia, which is on Crimea’s eastern coast, underscored that those ports were still at risk.
The strike came as Ukraine signaled that it was girding for a protracted war against Russia. On Monday, the government introduced a bill in Parliament that proposes lowering the age of people who can be drafted into the military to 25 from 27.
The bill also proposes the introduction of a three-month military training course for all Ukrainians ages 18 to 25, and changes to the conscription process.
As the Ukrainian Army suffers from a shortage of troops to battle Russia’s repeated assaults, the conscription process has come under scrutiny amid reports of wrongful draft notices and coercive mobilization tactics.
Military officials have said in recent days that a large-scale mobilization of up to 500,000 soldiers would be necessary. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said a plan still had to be drawn up before he could make a decision.