Ukraine update: A night attack on the port in Sevastopol damages at least three Russian ships

Ukraine update: A night attack on the port in Sevastopol damages at least three Russian ships

On Friday night, Ukraine launched an attack on the Crimean port of Sevastopol. Russian sources have reported that this attack included at least nine UAVs (drones) and seven UMV (automated boats). Ukrainian sources have called these claims ridiculous. But however it was achieved, there are reports of damage to a number of Russian naval vessels, including the Frigate Admiral Makarov. At least three of the ships damaged are reportedly those which were have launched Kalibr missiles into Ukrainian cities.

The Russian frigate Admiral Makarov is on fire after a Ukrainian drone attack against the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, Crimea.

— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) October 29, 2022

Images from the event show a series of explosions. In the immediate aftermath, Russian news outlets attributed the blasts to a “training exercise.” Then Russia claimed that Ukraine had launched their incredible air-sea drone combo punch, but had only taken out a fishing trawler. Russia later acknowledge damage to a minesweeper.

However, it was evident from the beginning that several large ships were ablaze in the harbor. With the coming of the morning, some of these ships can be identified. The Admiral Makarov — a 122m (400’) long ship that was just launched in 2015 — appears to have suffered heavy damage and has now been burning for hours. The harbor may be too shallow for it to join the cruiser Moskva at the bottom of the sea, but there’s little doubt that the Makarov will be out of action for an extended period.

Explosions in Sevastopol harbor last night. According to some sources, several Russian warships of the Black Sea Fleet were blown up – including a fregate and a landing ship.

— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) October 29, 2022

The power of the explosions is clear. Less clear is what Ukraine actually used to carry out this mission (based on recent experience, Russia is likely to blame NATO-trained dolphins and attack mosquitos). Adding to the wonder over just how badly Russia handled this, even on the propaganda front, just minutes before the explosions Russian officials reported that Ukraine had launched drones toward Sevastopol, but all those drones have been destroyed. 

In April, Russian ships were forced to move farther away from the Ukrainian coast after Ukraine gave a vivid demonstration of their ability, and of Russia’s inadequate defenses, by sinking the Moskva, which was at that point the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. With the Moskva out of action, Russia needed a new flagship and, this is true, the selection was … the Admiral Makarov. So Ukraine may have just sunk the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet. Again.

In September, Russia reportedly relocated its Kilo-class submarines from Sevastopol to the Russian port of Novorossiysk in Krasnodar Krai. This came after a series of explosions in Crimea whose origin seemed to baffle the Russian military. Some planes from Crimean air fields were also relocated back to the other side of the soon-to-be damaged Kerch Bridge. However, Sevastopol is almost 300km from the nearest Ukrainian-controlled territory, well outside of the longest range attack from HIMARS and at the limit of operations for the Bayraktar drone. Despite the handful of earlier explosions, it seemed that Russia didn’t think its Black Sea Fleet was in serious danger. 

They thought wrong. Those subs over at Novorossiysk better make room. They’re likely to have some new neighbors … assuming those neighbors are capable of making the journey. And now I’m going to link my own tweet, because I want to share the meme, and because I can barely resist typing “wessels” every time it comes up.

Overnight, Ukraine launched an attack on Russian naval vessels in the port at Sevastopol. Multiple ships are damaged or on fire, including the frigate Admiral Makarov. At least three of the ships damaged were those carrying Kalibr missiles.

— Mark Sumner🌻 (@Devilstower) October 29, 2022

Because the border between liberated territory and Russian occupation in the south has changed so slightly over the last six months, we rarely look too closely at what’s going on all along the line from south of Bakhmut over to Kamyanske. But there are a whole line of hero towns along that front; towns that have been forced to withstand daily shelling from Russian artillery day after day, week after week, and month after month. Before the war, Orikhiv was a town of around 20,000, making it larger than Lyman, smaller than Izyum. As with Bakhmut, Russia has made almost endless attempts to advance into this area. Those attempts have all been unsuccessful, but the damage to this beautiful old town, formerly home to a large group of Mennonites, is heartbreaking.

Orikhiv, in Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Russians have shelled it into oblivion. Little remains.

— Andrew Perpetua (@AndrewPerpetua) October 29, 2022

This morning I need to offer both a retraction and an apology. The retraction comes because, after I published the initial update yesterday, I updated again with news that Ukrainian forces had crossed the P66 highway north of Kreminna and were in control of the road. In particular, the town of Ploshchanka was mentioned as the site of this important change in control.

My sources on this were a pair of highly reliable Ukrainian Telegram accounts, and their sources were even better—because the statement came from Serhii Haidai, head of Ukraine’s Armed Forces in Luhansk. That would seem hard to beat.

Hard, but not impossible. Because hours later, the commander of Operational  Command “East,” Major General Serhiy Nayev, called out Haidai by name for spreading false information and potentially causing damage to Ukrainian operations in the area. According to Nayev, Ukraine holds fire control over an extended stretch of the highway, but is not in physical possession of the highway in the area Haidai cited.

Whether this means that Ukraine has taken the road, but doesn’t want it talked about, or hasn’t taken the road and is angry that Haidai jumped the gun, or whether this is all still another level of OpSec … I don’t know. But for now, I’m pulling back that control line and saying “never mind” to the update stating that Ukraine held the highway near Ploshchanka.

The apology comes because I had hinted at a second update yesterday, but didn’t actually get that accomplished. In part, that was because some asshole broke into Nancy Pelosi’s house hoping to murder her and ended up sending her 82-year-old husband to the hospital for emergency surgery.

But it was also because I got involved in a project that is Coming Soon. Here’s your sneak peak…

Coming soon to an update near you … where ‘soon’ is a relative thing.

UPDATE: Saturday, Oct 29, 2022 · 7:27:03 PM +00:00

Mark Sumner

A small, and potentially not so small, update from the area between Kupyansk and Svatove. 

Stelmakhivka confirmed, areas east of Kupyansk reported liberated.

First, there’s the matter of Stelmakhivka, about 15km west of Svatove. It was reported liberated over a week ago, but now that’s been confirmed, with numerous videos today of Ukrainian soldiers strolling through the town and no sign of current conflict.

Second, there’s a small cluster of villages east of Kupyansk where fighting was reported on Friday and where there are now reports that locations have been liberated. This unconfirmed list includes: Pershotravneve, Mykolaivka, and Orlyanske, along with some too-small-to-be-seen-here villages. With the focus on transportation hub cities like Lyman, Svatove, Kreminna, and Starobilsk, Ukraine hasn’t been particularly aggressive in picking up these smaller locations at the extreme northeast of Kharkiv Oblast, but that appears to be changing over the last two weeks. Liberating this whole area could take pressure off Kupyansk and give Ukraine more flexibility.

UPDATE: Saturday, Oct 29, 2022 · 6:04:24 PM +00:00

Mark Sumner

GIF comparing the profile of the frigate Admiral Markov to the images from drone-boat thermal imagery released by Ukraine.

UPDATE: Saturday, Oct 29, 2022 · 5:57:13 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

And exactly why are Republicans standing in the way of a plan to provide assistance to Ukraine using funds recovered from seized Russian assets? According to The Washington Post… 

A group of House and Senate Republicans have objected to a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act conference report that would allow the United States to transfer the proceeds of forfeited Russian property to Ukraine, according to people involved with the negotiations. …

The dispute over the measure comes amid questions about the future of Republican support for Ukraine’s war effort.

Republicans are making a lame procedural argument about sending this idea back for further review by House committees, but there’s little doubt the goal here is to protect Russia and starve Ukraine.

UPDATE: Saturday, Oct 29, 2022 · 3:49:47 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Looking at the design of the Ukrainian USV, the whole thing probably cost less then $10k in parts (not counting the explosives). If I had to guess, I’d bet the gimbaled camera and control systems came by simply disassembling a consumer drone, likely one from DJI. This is fantastic use of readily-available materials and just damn clever engineering. Add Starlink antenna, jet ski motor, batteries, and a nose full of boom.

This is the kind of thing that should be making the “great navies” of the world tremble, not zillion mile an hour super-hyper-expo-sonic missiles that cost as much as a frigate.

If this attack was as successful as it seems to be, expect a lot more such exploits in the future.

UPDATE: Saturday, Oct 29, 2022 · 3:38:03 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

***UPDATE*** Now beyond any reasonable doubt that the type of surface drones used by #Ukraine to attack Russian Navy in Sevastopol today were same as one previous found near the base. #OSINT Reference And

— H I Sutton (@CovertShores) October 29, 2022

UPDATE: Saturday, Oct 29, 2022 · 2:46:55 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

This one has been on the map for a week, but it’s always good to have confirmation, especially considering how close this is to Svatove. 

Visual confirmation that Stelmakhivka has been liberated by Ukrainian forces. Footage shows the (destroyed) local school. #Luhansk #Ukraine

— (((Tendar))) (@Tendar) October 29, 2022

The 2022 midterms are just around the corner, and you sent us a ton of fantastic questions for this week’s episode of The Downballot. Among the many topics we cover: which states are likely to report results slowly—and how will those results change over time; the House districts that look like key bellwethers for how the night might go, and which might offer surprises; why and how Democrats make the hard decisions on which races to triage; the top legislative chambers to keep an eye on; and plenty more!

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