Russian Patrol Ship Hit By Ukrainian Coastal Defenses
Ukraine's military claims to have hit a Russian patrol ship with a shore-based rocket attack, marking the first reported casualty for a Russian Navy vessel since the start of the invasion in February. The vessel has been tentatively identified as the Vasily Bykov, the lead ship of the lightly-armed Project 22160 class of patrol vessels, and the extent of the damage is unknown.
Documented losses indicate that Ukrainian ground forces have destroyed or captured nearly 900 pieces of Russian military equipment since February 24, and analysts suggest that the true total may be substantially higher. The Ukrainian military's Centre for Defence Strategies claims that the number exceeds 2,000. However, the Russian Navy has been largely exempt from these heavy losses: with the exception of an amphibious landing near Mariupol, it has had a standoff role in the conflict and has been little affected.
A video released Sunday by the Ukrainian military shows a volley of unguided multiple-launch rockets (Grad MLRS) followed by a dim fire on the horizon and cheers from the defenders. The footage was taken at night, and the information about the attack is still preliminary, according to BlackSeaNews. If the reports are correct, the strike indicates a rare coastal defense application for a low-accuracy, Soviet-era Grad rocket launcher.
Russian warships have been loitering off the coast of Odesa since last week, and Ukrainian defense forces in the city have been on high alert for the possibility of an amphibious assault. As recently as Thursday, U.S. officials told Fox News that an amphibious landing was likely in or near Odesa.
However, on Sunday, a senior U.S. official told Reuters that the Pentagon no longer believes that such an attack is imminent. Russian ground forces have been repelled from the outskirts of Nikolaev (Mykolaiv), a small city to the east, and though they are regrouping, they are not expected to advance westward quickly. For now, any Russian amphibious landing at Odesa would be on its own - and given the limited capacity of the Russian tank landing ships in the Black Sea, the first wave would be greatly outnumbered by the Ukrainian army and civil-defense forces.