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Russia strikes merchant ships in Black Sea as it launches amphibious assault on Ukraine

Russia attacking merchant ships in the Black Sea
Photo: Ukrainian defense ministry

Russia has targeted two commercial ships in the vicinity of Ukraine’s port of Odessa in the Black Sea on February 25.

According to the Ukrainian defense ministry, Russia launched missiles at Namura Queen, hitting Panama flagged bulk carrier’s stern. A fire broke out on the ship, and a fire tow was called. Ukraine responded to the emergency and the situation is under control, according to the defense ministry.

The second ship that was targeted, and hit, by Russian missiles, as reported by the Ukrainian defense ministry, is the Moldova-flagged oil tanker Millenial Spirit. The attack was also confirmed by the Naval Agency of the Republic of Moldova, who said the ship was in the neutral waters of the Black Sea at the time of the attack. The agency added that the source of the missile launch was unknown.

The missile attacks against the commercial ships preceded the launch of an amphibious operation of the Russian Navy into Ukraine, through the Sea of Azov in the vicinity of Mariupol.

According to USNI News, which cited a senior defense official, the assault is being carried out by one of Russia’s two amphibious task forces that were concentrated in the region as part of Russia’s massive military buildup that preceded the February 24 launch of an invasion against Ukraine.

Russia has a massive naval presence in the Black Sea, as well as the Mediterranean Sea. Naval assets stationed in the Black Sea had only supported Russian ground troops with surface-to-surface strikes up to this point. As the advancement of Russian ground troops seems to have slowed down, the amphibious forces are launching the operation.

One of the most prominent events of the Russian invasion so far is the Snake Island engagement during which 13 Ukrainian soldiers refused to surrender their post. After the Russian warship, which appeared to be the Slava-class cruiser Moskva, issued a radio message telling them to surrender, the soldiers only radioded back: “go fuck yourself.” All 13 of them were killed in the attack that followed.