Ukraine Strikes Black Sea Russian Oil Tanker With Drones

The Liberian-flagged oil tanker Ice Energy (L) transfers crude oil from the Russian-flagge

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Ukrainian drones hit a Russian tanker in the Black Sea near Crimea late Friday night, according to Russian officials and video circulating on social media.

The strike was the second sea attack involving drones in one day, after Ukraine struck a major Russian port earlier on Friday in an attack that underlined Kyiv´s growing naval capabilities as the Black Sea becomes an increasingly important battleground in the war.

The attacks follow Russian strikes on Ukrainian ports after Moscow nearly three weeks ago withdrew from a key grain-export agreement that allowed Ukraine to sell millions of tons of grain on world markets.

“The Sig tanker…suffered a hole in the engine room near the waterline on the starboard side, presumably as a result of a sea drone attack,” Russia´s Federal Agency for Marine and River Transport wrote on Telegram, adding that there were no casualties among the 11 crew members.

Vladimir Rogov, a Kremlin-installed official in Ukraine’s partially occupied southern Zaporizhzhia region, said several members of the ship’s crew were wounded because of broken glass.

An official with Ukraine’s Security Service confirmed to The Associated Press that the service was behind the attack on the tanker, which was transporting fuel for Russian forces. A sea drone, filled with 450 kilograms (992 pounds) of TNT, was used for the attack, added the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give official statements.

Without specifying that Ukraine was responsible for the drone strike, Vasyl Malyuk, who leads Ukraine´s Security Service, said that “such special operations are conducted in the territorial waters of Ukraine and are completely legal.” Any such explosions, he said, are “an absolutely logical and effective step with regard to the enemy.”

The attack briefly halted traffic on the Kerch Bridge, the 19-kilometer (12-mile) bridge linking Moscow-annexed Crimea to Russia, as well as ferry transport.

Tugboats were deployed to assist the tanker, which is under United States sanctions for helping provide jet fuel to Russian forces fighting in Syria, according to Russia´s Tass news agency.

Ukraine’s earlier strike on Novorossiysk halted maritime traffic for a few hours and marked the first time a commercial Russian port has been targeted in the nearly 18-month-old conflict. The port has a naval base, shipbuilding yards and an oil terminal, and is key for exports. It lies about 110 kilometers (about 60 miles) east of Crimea.

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