Ukraine Reports Sinking Russian Supply Ship with Anti-Ship Missiles
The Russian military tug Vasily Bekh was reportedly attacked and either severally damaged or sunk according to reports from the Ukrainian military released on social media. Unverified video appears to show the vessel struck by two missiles and erupting into a fireball.
Ukrainian officials are reporting that the vessel was struck by two land-based missiles believed to be Harpoon anti-ship systems which were recently supplied by several countries including the United States and Denmark. Alternately, it could be a UK missile system that was believed to have also recently arrived in Ukraine. It would be the first use of the Western-supplied anti-ship systems by Ukraine.
Analysts viewing the unconfirmed video released on social media by the Ukrainians noted that the trajectory of the missiles seems to confirm the use of these more sophisticated systems. They point out that the missiles appear to be coming in at a slower speed and perpendicular to the water. In the past, Ukraine has used mostly laser-guided anti-tank missiles in conjunction with drones to stage the attacks on Russian vessels.
The statement from Ukraine with the video said the Vasily Bekh was transporting ammunition, weapons, and personnel to reinforce the Russian forces on Snake Island. Independent sources are also reporting that recent images of the vessel showed it carrying a Tor-M2MK short-range air defense vehicle, with some sources suggesting it was being used as a make-shift defense for the vessel while others believe it was being transported to shore.
Ukraine did not announce the timing of the attack but reports are saying it happened in the overnight hours while the vessel was approximately 19 miles east of Snake Island. Initial claims from Ukraine said 70 percent of the crew was “disabled” but they later revised it saying the vessel had sunk. Media reports are citing unnamed Russian officials saying that 10 of the 33 crew onboard were missing and most of the crew were injured.
If the sinking of the Vasily Bekh is confirmed, analysts are saying it would be the fourteenth Russian vessel damaged or sunk since the beginning of the invasion. Most of the vessels have been smaller landing crafts and patrol boats as well as the widely reported sinking of the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet the Moskva in late March.