Ukraine Says Russian Missile Hit Abandoned Tanker in Black Sea
For the second time since the attack began on Ukraine, a Moldova-flagged tanker has come under fire according to reports from a Ukrainian spokesperson. It is unclear why the vessel, which had been heavily damaged and abandon after the first attack, would have been targeted for a second time, but Ukrainian officials are using it to call attention to potential environmental issues in the Black Sea.
According to a report posted on the social media site Telegram by a spokesperson for the Head of the Odesa Regional Military Administration, Serhiy Bratchuk, Russian forces unleashed new air strikes in the Odesa region of western Ukraine. During the assault, he is saying that two 2 Kh-31 missiles were fired from a Su-30 aircraft specifically targeting the disabled tanker Millennial Spirit.
Reports indicate that the 2,091 dwt chemical tanker was hit by one of the missiles while the second appeared to self-destruct before reaching the target. They indicated that new fires were started aboard the tanker. Calling the vessel a possible “environmental time bomb,” the Ukrainian officials speculated that “probably the remainder of the cargo is burning.”
The Millennial Spirit has been abandoned for the past four months since the vessel came under attack at the end of February. At the time, reports said it was anchored south of Odesa loaded with 600 tons of diesel fuel. The safety equipment was destroyed during the attack with reports saying the crew jumped into the sea in their lifejackets and were later rescued by a Ukrainian SAR vessel.
News of the latest attack, which western outlets highlight has not been independently verified, comes as Ukraine has sought to increase the attention on the environmental impact of the now five months of fighting. Ukraine recently said it would use the international courts to seek compensation for the “huge environmental damage,” caused by intense fighting including along the coast in port cities from Mariupol to Odesa.
Separate reports continue to say that ships loyal to both sides of the conflict are remaining dark in the Black Sea. Vessels are seeking to hide their location and their movements, both seeking safety from the ongoing attacks and possibly disguising the movement of confiscated materials including grain and corn for the occupied regions of Ukraine.