One Year Later, Russian Navy Confirms Loss of the Amphib Saratov

Tsezar Kunikov and Novocherkassk flee Berdyansk as Saratov burns at the pier (Armed Forces of Ukraine)

Published Mar 28, 2023 8:13 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Russian Navy has finally acknowledged the loss of the amphibious assault ship Saratov, which was destroyed by Ukrainian forces at the Russian-occupied port of Berdyansk one year ago. 

Russian forces captured the port of Berdyansk on February 27, 2022, just days into the invasion of Ukraine. They soon began using the seaport to resupply the ongoing drive to capture Mariupol, shuttling vehicles and ammunition to Berdyansk using small amphibs. According to Russian state-controlled outlet Zvezda, 10 ships were assigned to these resupply runs. 

Ukrainian forces struck back on March 24, 2022, when an Alligator-class tank landing ship caught fire and exploded alongside the pier at Berdyansk. Secondary explosions followed for an extended period of time, consistent with combustion of a cargo of munitions. Satellite images taken by Maxar the next day showed clearly that an Alligator-class vessel had sunk alongside the pier. 

Two Ropucha-class tank landing ships - which had been berthed nearby - exited the port shortly after the initial blast. Bystander videos showed that one appeared to have a fire on deck. 

Russia did not acknowledge the loss at the time, but on the one-year anniversary of the attack, commander of the Russian-occupied Crimean naval base Felix Menkov confirmed that the Saratov had been sunk and members of the crew had been killed. 

"A year ago, during hostilities, we lost a ship of the landing formation - VDK Saratov. We lost personnel of the landing ships Saratov, Novocherkassk, Tsezar Kunikov,” said Menkov at a memorial ceremony. "Our children and grandchildren should be raised with such role models of love and service to the Fatherland."

Ukraine's Navy claims that the commanders of the Saratov and the Novocherkassk were traitors who defected to the Russian Navy in 2014. 

The wreck of the Saratov was raised and removed in July 2022. Tsezar Kunikov has reportedly been laid up for lack of spare parts to repair her main engines, and the status of Novocherkassk is not known.