Photos published on Monday show a gaping hole in the hull of a Russian submarine that was damaged in a Ukrainian missile attack on the Sevastopol Shipyard in annexed Crimea last week.
Experts assess the Russian cruise missile carrier—the Rostov-on-Don—could take years and millions of dollars to repair.
The new images were published on Telegram by the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT), an investigative group that analyzes armed conflicts, including Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. It comes days after Ukraine targeted the Russian navy’s Black Sea fleet, damaging the submarine and a large vessel, the Minsk, as they underwent repairs.
The photos show serious damage to the submarine, which was struck on September 13. CIT assessed that the submarine was hit twice, piercing the submarine’s “durable hull.” It cited a naval analyst as saying that the damage will most likely remove the submarine from Russia’s Black Sea fleet “until the end of the war.”
In an intelligence update on September 15, the British defense ministry said that despite the Russian Ministry of Defense downplaying the damage to the vessels, open-source evidence indicates the Minsk landing ship “has almost certainly been functionally destroyed” while the Rostov submarine has likely suffered “catastrophic damage.”
“Any effort to return the submarine to service is likely to take many years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars,” British intelligence said.
There is a realistic possibility that “the complex task of removing the wreckage from the dry docks will place them out of use for many months,” the British defense ministry added in its update, noting that this would present the Black Sea Fleet with a significant challenge in sustaining fleet maintenance.
It noted that the loss of the Rostov-on-Don removes one of the Black Sea Fleet’s four cruise-missile capable submarines, which have played a major role in striking Ukraine and projecting Russian power across the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Ukraine’s attack on Crimea last week is part of preparatory measures Kyiv is taking before it attempts to liberate the peninsula, which was annexed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2014, according to Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head of Ukraine’s presidential office.
“Without a doubt Crimea is Ukraine’s territory. During preliminary preparation for the de-occupation of the territory and based on provisions of international law, Ukraine has been fulfilling three key tasks by attacking occupation military objects in Crimea…,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter, last Thursday.
Podolyak wrote in his X post that one of those tasks is to “chase away remnants of the Russian Black Sea fleet from the Crimean territorial waters and beyond and reinstate the status of the Black Sea as the sea of external jurisdiction. For this purpose repairs infrastructure and Russian warships are being destroyed.”
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