Russian Ship Burning in Ukraine Harbor, Hit by Missile Strike

March 24, 2022Howard Altman
Berdyansk Russian ship burning

A Russian cargo ship burns at the port of Berdyansk, struck by a Ukrainian missile. Picture courtesy of Brig. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov.

Ukrainian forces destroyed a large Russian landing ship Thursday, March 24, leaving the ship burning at its pier after a missile strike at the Ukrainian port of Berdyansk, about 50 miles southwest of the besieged city of Mariupol.

A Ukrainian general confirmed the strike to Coffee or Die Magazine. Brig. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, chief of Defense Intelligence of Ukraine, told Coffee or Die that Ukrainian forces had hit a Russian Alligator-class landing ship with a land-based rocket while it was docked at Berdyansk. Though only lightly armed, such a ship carries troops and materiel. With a capacity of about 1,000 tons, the 1960s-era ship could carry as many as 20 modern tanks, though it was unknown what was on board when the vessel was hit.

russian ship burning
A Russian cargo ship burns at the port of Berdyansk, struck by a Ukrainian missile, while a second Russian cargo ship sails away, with a plume of smoke emerging from its bow. Video capture from Twitter.

Budanov would not say how the Ukrainians had targeted the ship but provided videos and pictures of what appeared to be an explosion on the ship at or soon after impact. Those videos matched extensive video of the burning ship shared on social media outlets, including Twitter, Telegram, and TikTok, which appeared to show the ship suffering a series of explosions after being hit, consistent with fire consuming stores of ammunition, fuel, or other explosive material on board.

Other ships identified as Russian cargo transports were seen steaming out of the harbor as the stricken ship burned.

russian ship burns
Ukrainian Brig. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov provided this picture to Coffee or Die of a large explosion on board a Russian Alligator-class landing ship burning in Berdyansk harbor after being struck with a Ukrainian missile.

The stricken ship is relatively small — about 100 meters long, roughly akin to a larger US Coast Guard cutter, but only about a third the size of equivalent ships in the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command — but its loss could prove a major setback to Russian logistics if its navy is unable to reliably land supplies at the port. Berdyansk is one of the few ports in Ukraine under Russian control, while the major port cities of Odesa and Mariupol remain in Ukrainian hands. 

Budanov would not say what kind of ground-launched missile had been used in the attack, but a Twitter post from Elint News, which tracks weapons and equipment used in Ukraine, noted a Russian-language post on Telegram from Saturday that appeared to capture wreckage from a Tochka-U short-range ballistic missile on the ground at Berdyansk.

Read Next: DISPATCH: On the Eve of Battle With an American Volunteer in Ukraine

Howard Altman
Howard Altman

Howard Altman is a contributing writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the senior managing editor of Military Times and a military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM, and SOF writ large among many other topics. He is also on the advisory board of Military Veterans in Journalism. Email him [email protected]

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