Oil ship hit in suspected Black Sea drone strike

Russian maritime rescue units were deployed on Saturday to assist an oil tanker off the coast of Crimea. The vessel was left without propulsion after what reports called a strike by a Ukrainian drone.

“The crew is safe, there were no injuries,” a spokesperson for the Novorossiysk Marine Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC) told TASS, shortly after 2 am local time.

“The engine room was damaged, though not severely,” the official added.

Two tugboats dispatched to help the ship have already arrived and rescue crews are trying to decide whether and where to tow the damaged tanker.

Officials never named the tanker involved. According to multiple Telegram channels, the vessel is the Russian-registered Sig oil carrier, damaged in what was said to be an attack by Ukrainian maritime drones about 45 kilometers south of the Kerch Bridge. Traffic on the bridge was stopped just before midnight, with local authorities saying there was a threat of a drone attack.

Oleg Kryuchkov, adviser to the head of Crimea, stated the “loud noises” heard by local residents had nothing to do with the bridge and that he could not confirm any reports of explosions, leading to speculation that the target may have been the tanker.

A radio message from the Sig, requesting assistance, said that their engine room flooded but the ship had stabilized and needed a tow to reach the shore. It did not specify what caused the damage.

Ukrainian sea drones attacked the Black Sea Fleet base at Novorossiysk early on Friday. Kiev also tried to sink civilian ships sailing towards the Bosphorus on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said, but their military escorts destroyed all attacking craft.

There has been no official confirmation of rumors that Ukraine once again tried to target the Crimean Bridge with maritime drones.

The bridge, connecting Kerch with Taman, has come under attack twice so far. In October 2022, a truck loaded with explosives detonated on one of the spans, killing three people and causing damage that took months to repair. Last month, a drone boat blew up under one of the segments, killing two civilians and orphaning a 14-year-old girl. The July attack damaged only one lane of the roadway, so the authorities were able to restore a partial flow of traffic within a day.

Earlier this week, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Aleksey Danilov, said the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) was involved in both incidents.

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