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Russia Claims to Have "Destroyed" Ukrainian Landing Ship

Yuri Olefirenko
Yuri Olefirenko in the years before the invasion (Ukrainian Navy)

Published May 31, 2023 7:47 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed Wednesday that it has "destroyed" Ukraine's last naval vessel, a Soviet-era landing ship. The claims could not immediately be verified.

On May 31, Russia's Defense Ministry claimed that the landing ship Yuri Olefirenko had been struck by "precision" weapons at the port of Odesa. Ukraine has not confirmed or denied the attack, but it has reported a fire affecting port infrstructure as the result of a nighttime drone strike on May 28. 

“A fire broke out in the port infrastructure of Odesa as a result of the hit. It was quickly extinguished. Information on the extent of the damage is being updated,” the Ukrainian military's southern command said in a statement on May 29. 

Odesa's port is covered by Russian security guarantees under the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a UN-backed agreement allowing Ukraine to export wheat, corn and other commodities from three seaports on the Black Sea. It has rarely been targeted by Russian forces since the signing of the accord last August. 

The landing ship Yuri Olefirenko (ex name SDK 137) was built for the Soviet Navy in Gdansk, Poland in 1970, and she became part of the Ukrainian Navy after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. She changed hands again briefly during the first Russian invasion in 2014, when her crew surrendered to the Russian military at Lake Donuzlav, Crimea; Russia returned her to Ukrainian custody the following month. After the handover, she was given her current name.

In April 2022, after the start of the second invasion, Russian media sources claimed that Yuri Olefirenko had been captured and sailed off to the port of Novorossiysk, on the other side of the Black Sea. The claims turned out to be incorrect, and the ship was photographed in Ukraine in June 2022.