The Russian landing ship that was assaulted by Ukrainian forces this week in the southern port city of Berdyansk has sunk, according to Pentagon sources, on Friday.
Maxar Technologies satellite photographs released to USNI News show that the Alligator-class landing ship tank (LST) shown on video on Thursday was submerged near the edge of the pier, with the superstructure and forecastle jutting out above the water.
The fire spread to a merchant ship moored in front of it, according to the images. Before the war, the merchant ship appears to have been docked there. The fire also spread to the pier’s tanks. When the satellite went overhead, both of these flames were still ablaze.
According to video footage of the burning ship taken immediately after the hit, two Ropucha-class landing craft were also destroyed. They’d docked beside and in front of the amphibious ship of the Alligator class. They sailed away while the fire on the Alligator raged, attempting to put out their own fires.
According to a senior US defence official, Ukrainian forces attacked and destroyed the Alligator-class LST while it was moored.
“It appears from the imagery we’ve seen that they destroyed that ship. We don’t know how many casualties. I don’t know how many people were on the ship when it got hit,” the official said.
It’s unknown if the operation was carried out using a ballistic missile or a drone. The spokesperson from the US Defense Department did not reveal what Ukraine used to assault the ship, invoking operational secrecy for Ukrainian forces.
According to the official, the Alligator-class ship was on a resupply mission as combat continued in the coastal city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov.
“It’s clear that at least one thing they were trying to do was use the port there at Berdyansk as a resupply depot for their fight up near Mariupol,” the official said.
According to the Pentagon, Russia is focused on the eastern half of Ukraine in a ground attack, with Russian soldiers attempting to cut off the Donbas area.
“They’re trying to break out – to take Mariupol – and then break off north from there to do that from the south. Now that’s why they’re frustrated, and frankly, we think that’s of a piece of why they had LSTs dropping off supplies in Berdyansk – to try to reinforce their efforts to take Mariupol,” the official said.
In preparation for the conflict in Ukraine, Russia has been stockpiling landing ships. Six ships from the Northern and Baltic Fleets went into the Black Sea during the building phase. More are on their way from the Pacific Fleet but are unsure if Turkey would allow them to enter the Black Sea.
Whatever the circumstances, the Russian Navy’s loss of Orsk is noteworthy. Berdyansk’s port appears to have weathered the storm with immense capacity to receive incoming ships. If you want to call it an assault, it shows the Ukrainian military’s ability to hold this crucial port under siege, at least to some extent.