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Novocherkassk transforms into 'submarine': Ukraine's Russian Fleet depleting strategy, and count of ships resting at bottom

Novocherkassk transforms into 'submarine': Ukraine's Russian Fleet depleting strategy, and count of ships resting at bottom Russian large landing ship Novocherkassk (Photo: Russian media)

The Ukrainian Air Force struck the Russian large landing ship Novocherkassk in the area near the occupied Feodosia. This became another blow to the fleet of the aggressor country, which had previously been forced to move some of its warships away from Crimea.

More details on the strikes on the ships and how the Ukrainian forces weakened the Russian fleet in the Black Sea can be found in the material by RBC-Ukraine.

The material was prepared using data from the Telegram channel Crimean Wind, statements by the Commander of the Air Force Mykola Olechuk and other military speakers, information from Wikipedia, conclusions from OSINT analysts, and comments from expert Volodymyr Zablotskyi.

The destruction of the Novocherkassk: What is known?

Overnight on December 26 in Feodosia, explosions were reported along with activity from Russian publications regarding anti-aircraft defense. As a result, a significant fire erupted in the port area. The occupying authorities confirmed the attack and reported at least one fatality.

Footage of the explosive incident has also surfaced online.

Commander of the Air Force, Mykola Olechuk, declared the destruction of the ship, emphasizing the continuous reduction of the Russian fleet.

"This time, following the Russian Black Sea Fleet's flagship, the Moskva cruiser, a large landing ship, the Novocherkassk, was hit," he noted.

Southern Defense Forces spokesperson Natalia Humeniuk stated that the strike on the Novocherkassk caused a sustained detonation of ammunition. Assessing the scale of the explosions, she suggested that the detonation might not have been merely due to the ship's fuel or onboard ammunition but could have resulted from the ship being fully loaded with munitions.

Given the proximity of everything in the Feodosia port, there is a possibility that another vessel was damaged, but this information requires confirmation.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the attack involved airstrikes using guided missiles. Allegedly, the Novocherkassk suffered damage, but no destruction was reported. It's worth noting that this is customary wording by adversaries to mitigate the impact of successful Ukrainian actions. To offset the news of losing the landing ship, the occupiers fabricated reports of allegedly destroying two Su-24 fighter jets 125 kilometers northeast of Mykolaiv.

Head of the Presidential Office, Andriy Yermak, responding to the strike on the Novocherkassk, declared that there would be no Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea because Crimea belongs to Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the Air Force for effectively "adding one more vessel to the Russian Black Sea submarine fleet."

"There will be no peaceful place for the occupiers in Ukraine," he added at the end of another Staff meeting.

The official account of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine made a jest by posting, "Ukrainian warriors modified the russian Novocherkassk large landing ship—now it's a submarine."

The Telegram public channel Crimean Wind reported that the attacked Novocherkassk was transporting Iranian combat drones - Shaheds. The Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security confirms that the ship was carrying drones used by Russia for strikes against Ukraine.

The version regarding Shaheds was commented on by Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat. He neither confirmed nor refuted this information, stating that those who possess such information should disclose it. Simultaneously, he acknowledged that the massive detonation indicated the presence of a powerful ammunition stock. He added that the operation was planned by the Armed Forces and other structures.

Military naval expert and Defense Express observer Volodymyr Zablotskyi believes that intelligence recorded the moment when the Dock Landing Ship (LSD) arrived in Feodosia loaded with ammunition, and the Air Force caught it by striking with at least one missile directly at the ship.

"They destroyed it completely: the cargo exploded, the fuel exploded, everything went off with the crew. Regarding the Shaheds, why not? If landing ships transport ammunition, and Shaheds are launched from Cape Tarkhankut, it's quite possible," he tells RBC-Ukraine.

However, the ship itself did not arrive from Iran. The Russians deliver Shaheds to Astrakhan, then further by rail. Since the opponent is constrained in logistics due to the Crimean Bridge, a portion of the drones is delivered precisely via the LSD.

The destruction of the Novocherkassk is confirmed by OSINT analysts. According to their data, the ship was sunk in Feodosia due to a missile strike. Analyst Oliver Alexander writes that there is almost nothing left of the LSD; the entire front part went underwater and, most likely, is completely destroyed. It is unlikely the vessel is salvageable. Even Russian "Z-war correspondents" acknowledge the ship's loss.

At present, it is precisely unknown which missiles were used against the Novocherkassk. Yurii Ihnat reminds that thanks to partners, Ukraine acquired long-range aviation missiles like Storm Shadow and SCALP; no other types are available. The type of missiles used in a night attack, along with their total quantity in possession, is traditionally not commented on by the Ukrainian side.

The Novocherkassk is not the only one. Which other ships Ukraine targeted

Before the full-scale invasion, Russia moved an additional six large landing ships from the Northern and Baltic fleets to the Black Sea. Consequently, the grouping of such vessels was increased to 13 units.

The opponent planned to use the LSDs in landing operations to seize the Odesa and Mykolaiv regions. However, they faced stern opposition from Ukraine's coastal defense. Presently, the landing ships are used for logistical purposes: transferring personnel, military equipment, and ammunition between Russian ports and temporarily occupied territories.

The Ukrainian defense forces inflicted noticeable losses on Russian LSDs.

"Saratov was sunk on March 24, 2022, near Berdyansk by a Tochka-U missile. At that time, Caezar Kunikov and Novocherkassk were also damaged," notes Volodymyr Zablotskyi.

Regarding Caezar Kunikov, information about the death of Captain Oleksandr Chyrva is known. In August 2023, kamikaze drones attacked the LSD Olenegorsky Gornyak in the Novorossiysk bay, and in September, a Storm Shadow missile struck the LSD Minsk due to a strike on the docks of the Sevmorzavod.

Novocherkassk transforms into 'submarine': Ukraine's Russian Fleet depleting strategy, and count of ships resting at bottom

Photo: Consequences of the strike on the LSD Minsk in Sevastopol, September 13, 2023 (

Twenty-one months later, Ukrainian aviation concluded the matter of the Novocherkassk. Photos of the ruined ship in Feodosia have emerged online.

Novocherkassk transforms into 'submarine': Ukraine's Russian Fleet depleting strategy, and count of ships resting at bottom

Photo: LSD Novocherkassk after the strike on the night of December 26 (

All the aforementioned vessels are large landing ships of Project 775 (NATO codification: Ropucha). They were built in Poland at the Stocznia Polnocna shipyard in Gdansk for the Soviet Navy and are the backbone of the Russian landing fleet.

They are designed for landing marine forces on unprepared shores and transporting troops and cargo by sea. They are capable of transporting various types of armored vehicles, including tanks.

Standard specifications for project 755 LSTs are as follows:

  • Displacement - over 400 tons
  • Length - 112.5 meters
  • Width - 15 meters
  • Crew - 87 persons
  • Troops - up to 300 persons
  • Cargo capacity - up to 460 tons

The ships are armed with launchers for the MS-73 RCM A-215 Grad-M, capable of firing at intervals of 0.5 seconds at a range of 21 km for shelling coastal fortifications and eliminating live forces. They also feature paired 57mm artillery installations AK-725 with remote targeting. To enhance firepower and air defense capabilities, the 775/III project ships replaced two AK-725 installations with an artillery complex consisting of one AK-176 and two AK-630M installations.

"If at the beginning of the war in the Black Sea, there were 13 large landing ships, now minus Saratov, Olenegorsky Gornyak, Minsk, and Novocherkassk, as well as the damaged Caezar Kunikov. Count them. Russian logistics through strikes on the Crimean Bridge is already complicated. And now they can't transport ammunition in the former volumes using ships," explains an expert.

According to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, at least 23 Russian ships have been destroyed since the start of the full-scale invasion.

According to information from open sources, it all started with the damage to the small missile ship Velikiy Ustyug. Then there was the patrol boat Oleg Shipitsin, three LSDs in Berdyansk, the patrol frigate Admiral Essen, missile cruiser Moskva, patrol corvettes, landing boats, frigate Admiral Makarov, reconnaissance ships, submarine Rostov-on-Don, and so on.

UK Defense Minister Grant Shapps believes that the destruction of the LSD Novocherkassk demonstrates that those who talk about the deadlock of the war in Ukraine are mistaken.

"They haven't noticed that over the past 4 months 20% of Russia's Black Sea Fleet has been destroyed. Russia's dominance in the Black Sea is now challenged and the new UK & Norway led Maritime Capability Coalition is helping to ensure Ukraine will win at sea," he emphasized.

How Ukraine herded the enemy fleet to Novorossiysk

Before today's events, Ukraine had struck three Russian ships in November - the small missile corvette Askold (attacked with a SCALP missile) and two landing boats. However, ships heading to Ukrainian ports are still in danger, and the threat of missile attacks from the Black Sea remains. Although the danger is significantly less than a year ago.

"We were able to intercept Russia’s initiative in the Black Sea and created such security conditions that force the aggressor to flee from the eastern part of the water area and try to hide warships...As one of the main results of our actions, Russia is unable to use the Black Sea as a springboard to destabilize other regions of the world," said Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the fall at the summit of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation.

At the final press conference on December 19, he stressed that the Russian fleet had lost total dominance in the Black Sea and was unable to dictate to Ukraine what to do and what to export. According to him, by striking the fleet, Ukraine forces it to leave its territorial waters.

The monitoring group Crimean Wind, citing satellite images published by OSINT investigator MT Anderson, documents the transfer of almost all significant ships from the coastal Crimean waters to Novorossiysk.

Novocherkassk transforms into 'submarine': Ukraine's Russian Fleet depleting strategy, and count of ships resting at bottomPhoto: satellite images of the port in Novorossiysk (

Specifically, there are:

  • 2 out of 2 Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates
  • 3 out of 3 Buyan-M-class small missile ships
  • 4 out of 4 Varshavyanka-class submarines
  • 1 out of 3 Karakurt-class small missile corvettes
  • 3 Vasily Bykov-class patrol ships
  • 3 Project 775 landing ships
  • 1 Ivan Gren-class landing ship
  • 3 Akvamarin-class minesweepers

Furthermore, the ships that remain in Crimea are increasingly less seen out at sea.

"Currently, there are no ships in the Black and Azov Seas. At least as of yesterday evening. Maybe someone went out at night, I don't have that data now," says Volodymyr Zablotskyi to RBC-Ukraine.

Apart from strikes on ships, in September, Ukrainian forces conducted Operation Crab Trap. As part of it, the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol was attacked by Storm Shadow missiles during a leadership meeting. As a result, the building was partially destroyed. However, it's unlikely that the fleet command has been moved elsewhere.

"It seems to me they're still in Sevastopol. The control system and equipment were damaged; the building wasn't completely destroyed, a wing remains intact. Besides, there's still plenty of space for admirals in Sevastopol," adds the expert.

Ukraine vs the Russian fleet forecast for 2024

The ability of Ukraine to continue hitting Russian ships depends on the availability of necessary armaments. According to Volodymyr Zablotskyi, relying solely on Storm Shadow and SCALP missiles (export versions hit targets up to 300 km away) won't be sufficient.

"These missiles aren't new; they were given to us not to win but because something had to be provided. They can only target static objects because the 'head' doesn't detect ships," explains the expert.

One of the options is the enhanced anti-ship cruise missile Neptune. When it enters service, there will be the ability to destroy moving targets.

"We're currently using what's available, and as we see, successfully, thank God," he emphasizes.

Regarding the fleet of surface drones, their capabilities shouldn't be exaggerated. They're primarily weapons, not a fleet, and for surface drones to hit something, it's necessary to precisely know where the target is and how much time it'll take for them to reach it from hypothetical locations like Ochakov or Odesa; otherwise, the target won't be there anymore.

"By the way, when we hit the Crimean Bridge in July, five new drones were supposed to attack it. But when they were on their way, reconnaissance noticed the frigate Admiral Essen in the sea, and the command decided to attack the frigate. Three drones chased it, but it managed to escape at a higher speed. There was no more fuel left to attack the bridge, so they self-destructed in the area of Yalta. Probably, we'll sink the frigate next time," Zablotskyi recounts.

Currently, Russians have no other option but to transport ammunition on landing ships through the Kerch Strait. Naturally, they'll try to repair the bridge, transport to the occupied Mariupol, where a new naval command has been established, as well as to Kerch and Feodosia. These, one could say, are the three main directions for 2024.

"They'll keep transporting, and we'll keep hindering that. What comes next, we'll see. For instance, we'll have F-16 aircraft, most likely, with their long-range missiles. Capable of hitting moving targets. And that's an entirely different philosophy of war, new tactics, which, I hope, will bring new successes," concludes the expert.