Following the Ukrainian Navy's strike on the Russian Vasily Bekh tugboat 70% of the crew was hit, the fate of the rest is unknown, the South operational command reports.
«Despite being equipped with an anti-aircraft missile system «Tor», the tugboat was set alight. According to preliminary data, 70% of the crew was hit, the fate of the rest is unknown. Enemy ships are trying to conduct a search and rescue operation,» the command said in a statement.
According to Dumskaya, there were 33 people aboard the tugboat: 23 wounded and 10 missing in action. Strana.ua wrote, citing public sources, that the tugboat crew consisted of 26 people.
The Ukrainian armed forces announced that the ship had been hit in the morning of June 17. The Russian Defense Ministry has not yet commented on the news.
The tugboat was transporting Russian sailors, weapons and ammunition, including a Tor surface-to-air missile system (SAM) to the temporarily occupied Snake Island.
Earlier, the Ukrainian Navy command reported that the ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet ships had been pulled 100 km away from the Ukrainian coastline. This happened two weeks after the news of the deliveries of US anti-ship Harpoon missiles to Ukraine. According to Kyiv, Russia keeps about 30 ships and submarines in the Black Sea, ensuring the blockade of the coast and Ukrainian ports. However, the Russian Navy has lost full control over the northwestern part of the Black Sea. According to Ukrainian Defense Minister Aleksey Reznikov, Ukraine's coastal defense will be strengthened with those weapons.
Ukraine has already used cruise missiles against the Russian Navy in the Black Sea. On April 13, Ukraine said it had struck the Black Sea Fleet's flagship cruiser Moskva with Neptun anti-ship missiles. On April 14, the Russian Defense Ministry reported the Moskva had been lost while being towed to port. Shortly before that, the ministry said that the ammunition on the cruiser had «detonated,» resulting in a fire onboard. The Russian authorities conceal the number of soldiers who were killed in the sinking of the Moskva; some of them were conscripts.