- By Jaroslav Lukiv
- BBC News
A Russian tanker with 11 crew members has been hit in a Ukrainian attack in the Black Sea, Russian maritime officials have said.
They said the vessel’s engine room was damaged in the overnight strike in the Kerch Strait. No-one was hurt.
Russia’s maritime transport agency later named the vessel as a Sig tanker. It gave its location as 17 miles (27km) south of the Crimean Bridge.
It said the attack was likely carried out by a naval drone.
Several Russian military bloggers earlier also said that a Ukrainian drone was involved, and that residents of nearby coastal villages heard a large explosion.
Ukraine has so far not publicly commented.
Naval drones, or sea drones, are small, unmanned vessels which operate on or below the water’s surface. Research by BBC Verify suggests Ukraine has carried out several attacks with sea drones, including one on Friday on a Russian ship.
Russia’s state-run Tass news agency quoted an official from the country’s regional Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) as saying that two tugs had already arrived at the scene of the attack – just to the south of the Kerch Strait.
“The engine room was damaged. Not much, but it was damaged,” the official said.
Russia’s maritime transport agency RosMorRechFlot later said the vessel had a hole “in the area of [the] engine room near the waterline from the starboard side, presumably as a result of an attack by a sea drone”.
“The ship is afloat,” it added.
The Kerch Strait connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, separating Crimea – Ukraine’s peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014 – and Russia’s Taman peninsula.
Russian state-run media also reported that lighting on the Crimean Bridge – further north – was turned off and all traffic halted amid warnings of an imminent attack.
If the attack is confirmed, it would be the latest such drone attack in the area.
Footage later emerged purportedly showing the drone hitting the Olenegorsky Gornyak large landing ship. Another unverified video showed a heavily listing vessel being towed to port.
But Russia’s defence ministry said it had repelled a Ukrainian attack on its naval base in Novorossiysk which involved two sea drones, but did not admit any damage.
Novorossiysk, a major hub for Russian exports, lies to the south-east of the Kerch Strait.
Clashes in the sea have increased in recent weeks, after Russia abandoned a major UN deal that enabled grain to be safely exported between Russia and Ukraine across the Black Sea.
Ukrainian ports have been pummelled by Russian drones and missiles, and Kyiv has threatened to retaliate.
In a separate development, Saudi Arabia is due to host talks later on Saturday on how to end the war in Ukraine.
Invitations have been sent to about 30 countries – but not Russia – to attend the meeting in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.
Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.