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Video: Ukrainian Drone Blows Hatch Covers Off Russian Barge

Inzhener Smirnov
Inzhener Smirnov in a more peaceful era, 2011 (Mike1979 / CC BY SA 4.0)

Published Jun 10, 2024 5:09 PM by The Maritime Executive

Over the weekend, Ukrainian forces hit a barge in the far northeastern corner of the Sea of Azov, more than 100 miles from the Black Sea and the front lines of the war. 

On Sunday, Russian defense channel Baza released footage of an apparent drone strike on a hopper barge and a towboat in Taganrog Bay, a sheltered and previously secure area located well within Russian-controlled territory. Waterborne, land-side and airborne access to the Sea of Azov are tightly regulated by Russian forces, who now control all shorelines around the sea's perimeter. Moscow treats the sea as its internal waters, and its border force guards the only route to the open ocean at the Kerch Strait. 

Photos and video released by Baza show that the drone strike damaged the hopper barge, tossing its hatch covers skyward. One fell on the towboat's stern before dropping over the side into the water. 

The towboat - identified as the Inzhener Smirnov - sustained damage to interior compartments, and two crewmembers were injured by shrapnel. The imagery suggests that both vessels remained afloat, and the Smirnov returned safely to port. The barge appeared to be in unladen condition. 

Though a dry cargo barge may look like a low-value target for Ukraine's drone force, Ukrainian outlet Rubryka suggests that the vessel may have had a strategic purpose - as a block ship for the Kerch Strait Bridge's defensive perimeter. After a successful Ukrainian drone boat strike on the bridge in 2023, Russia installed a string of barges and barriers along the Black Sea side of the bridge in order to defend it from remotely-controlled suicide boat attacks. These bridge defenses were damaged in a storm late last year, and the barge that was attacked in Taganrog Bay may have been intended as a replacement, according to Rubryka. 

"Russians expect that they will probably be covered by the Kerch [Strait], and this should complicate the work of Ukrainian drones [in the Sea of Azov]. Of course, they are trying to build these structures there in the form of barges, boom barriers to narrow the passage," defense spokesperson Dmytro Pletenchuk told Ukrainian media. 

Separately, British outlet Sky News has  reported a successful Ukrainian attack on a Russian Navy amphibious warship at the port of Yeysk, near the area where the attack on the barge occurred. This report is not accurate - at least not yet, Pletenchuk told Online.UA. 

"Unfortunately, as of now, this is news from the future," he said. 

Top Image: Inzhener Smirnov, 2011 (Mike1979 / CC BY SA 4.0)