Does Ukrainian UAV’s Sinking of Russia's Novocherkassk Landing Ship Make a Difference?

News update by James Waterhouse, BBC. For Kyiv, the sight of Russia's Novocherkassk landing ship being hit in an air strike was a much-needed boost. With Russia gaining the upper hand in recent weeks and the West's support stuttering, Ukraine has produced another dramatic missile strike in occupied Crimea. Spectacular? No doubt. But was it significant? "As a battleship, you might think it's not crucial," explains Alina Frolova, who was Ukraine's deputy defense minister between 2019-2020 and is now with the country's Centre for Defense Strategies. "But we need to look at the full context, it's a step-by-step process." Both Ukraine and the UK now say that 20% of Russia's Black Sea Naval Fleet has been destroyed since the start of its full-scale invasion - no mean feat for Ukraine, a country whose navy barely has any ships. Mostly, Russia's vessels have been destroyed with long-range robotic Storm Shadow missiles supplied by the West.

According to Bulgarianmilitary[dot]com, in a statement relayed via Telegram, the large landing ship named Novocherkassk, belonging to the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation, was struck by cruise missiles. The attack was mounted by the Air Force’s tactical aviation team around 02:30 local time [00:30 GMT] on December 26, in the Feodosia region. 

That has diminished Russia's ability to launch missile strikes from the sea, and any possibility of it mounting an amphibious attack from the sea is even less likely. It has also unblocked ports like Odesa which has allowed Ukrainian and international cargo ships to travel along an unofficial route. Frolova thinks this latest strike in Feodosia is a continuation of Ukraine squeezing Russian supply routes to Crimea, and therefore weakening Moscow's grip on the peninsula, which it has held since seizing it in 2014.
"It demonstrates Ukraine's Air Force can operate in the face of Russian air defenses," she says. "Ships like this are used to deliver ammunition and drones. Based on the detonation, there were a substantial number of explosives on board." Ukraine's Navy claims up to 80 people were on board too. "Ships allow them to move large loads relatively quickly," he says. "These large ships are intended for carrying up to 500 tons of people and equipment." The Novocherkassk was one of 12 Russian landing ships, according to Kuzan, of which he says Ukraine has now destroyed half. Serhiy Kuzan is co-founder of the Ukrainian Security and Co-operation Centre think-tank. Additional reporting by Hanna Tsyba.