Defector Aboard Russian Navy Corvette Set Fire to His Own Ship

An incendiary device goes off aboard Serpukhov, April 2024 (Ukrainian Directorate of Defense Intelligence)
An incendiary device goes off aboard Serpukhov, April 2024 (Ukrainian Directorate of Defense Intelligence)

Published Jul 3, 2024 10:18 PM by The Maritime Executive


A defector aboard the Russian Navy corvette Serpukhov helped Ukrainian forces stage an attack on his own vessel earlier this year, according to Ukraine's military intelligence service (GUR, or HUR). 

On April 7, the GUR claimed that a fire broke out aboard the corvette Serpukhov at Kaliningrad, the Russian port wedged between Poland and Lithuania. The Serpukhov is a Buyan-M class missile corvette, a small but heavily-armed vessel carrying up to eight antiship missiles and eight surface-to-air missiles. 

The Ukrainian spy agency released what appeared to be a schematic of the vessel's internal spaces and a brief video of an incendiary device going off. The GUR said that the Serpukhov sustained substantial damage from the fire, including the destruction of its communications and automation systems. (These claims have not been independently verified.) Serpukhov was put out of action for at least six months, the spy agency claims. 

At a recent press conference, GUR officer Andriy Yusov told Ukrainian media that this operation was carried out by a sympathetic Russian servicemember on board the ship. "This operation came as a shock to the enemy, and the FSB was furious," he said. 

The Russian sailor in question had revealed his moral doubts about the Russian invasion to his commanding officer, and had attempted to resign - only to be referred to a psychiatrist. "He thought that I was not normal if I went against the Russian authorities," the Russian defector - code name "Goga" - said at the press conference. After this, his CO sent his request to a prosecutor to decide if criminal charges were warranted.

"The prosecutor read the report on my dismissal, said that I could not do that, and that this was the first and last warning. And he let me go. No sanctions were applied to me. I continued to serve on my ship," he told Ukrinform. 

After his repeated attempts to leave the Russian Navy were turned down, he secretly joined a Ukrainian resistance movement, the "Freedom of Russia Legion." When the timing was right, he stole documents from aboard the Serpukhov, set fire to his own ship, and fled to Ukraine - where he remains.