Russian Naval Corvette in Sevastopol Hit by Mystery Explosion

A Russian naval corvette, Pavel Derzhavin, has been struck by a mysterious explosion near the Crimean port of Sevastopol, raising questions about the cause and extent of damage.

Russian Naval Corvette Pavel Derzhavin
Russian Naval Corvette Pavel Derzhavin Photo: Ukrinform

Sevastopol, Crimea – October 12, 2023 – In a development that has escalated tensions in the Black Sea, a Russian naval corvette, the Pavel Derzhavin, was hit by a mysterious explosion near the Crimean port of Sevastopol. The incident has left experts and military officials puzzled about the cause and extent of damage.

The Pavel Derzhavin, one of the Russian navy’s newest Type 22160 corvettes, is a 94-meter-long patrol ship equipped with Kalibr anti-ship missiles. The explosion was reported on Wednesday around 10:00 a.m. as the ship sailed near the entrance to the Sevastopol harbor, the traditional home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet (BSF). Russian social media platforms were abuzz with reports of the explosion.

Russian authorities responded by announcing the suspension of all public transportation in Sevastopol city, including local ferries, without specifying the reasons for the suspension. Meanwhile, Ukrainian navy spokesman Dmytro Pletenchuk indicated that officials in Kyiv were aware of the incident but remained uncertain about the cause and damage extent.

Anton Gerashchenko, an Interior Ministry spokesman, raised the possibility that a Ukrainian missile or a long-range drone might be responsible for the explosion. He confirmed the fact of the explosion while acknowledging the unknown cause.

Serhiy Bratchiuk, head of the regional defense command in Ukraine’s western Odesa region, suggested that the most likely cause was the Pavel Derzhavin striking a Russian sea mine protecting the Sevastopol harbor. Ukrainian intelligence operatives were actively investigating the incident.

By Wednesday evening, Russian-language Wikipedia had declared the ship a total loss and closed the page dedicated to the vessel. The Pavel Derzhavin was constructed in the Kerch shipyard, which was taken from Ukraine after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. The ship was commissioned at the end of 2020 and joined the BSF in June 2022, just four months after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

This corvette primarily carries Kalibr long-range cruise missiles and Tor anti-aircraft radar. The vessel’s primary missions include the patrol of territorial waters, anti-submarine warfare, and cargo ship escort, according to naval analysts. As Russia’s larger warships faced increasing losses during the conflict with Ukraine, the BSF began relying more on vessels like the Type 22160 corvettes for deep-water operations.

Notably, the flagship of the BSF, the cruiser Moskva, was sunk by two Ukrainian anti-ship missiles in an ambush on April 14, 2022. The Moskva was significantly larger and more capable than the Pavel Derzhavin.

Recent satellite imagery highlighted substantial damage to a Russian Type 22160 corvette, likely the Pavel Derzhavin’s sister ship, the Sergey Kotov. The damage was believed to result from a Ukrainian water-borne kamikaze drone during a September 14 night attack on Sevastopol harbor. Russian information platforms initially confirmed the attempted drone raid but claimed all unmanned boats had been destroyed, and no Russian vessels were damaged.

The situation presents a challenge for Russian naval repair capacity, as repair facilities in Novorossiysk and Sevastopol are overburdened with damaged warships, surpassing the available drydock space. Should the Pavel Derzhavin require significant repairs, it will have to wait for drydock space to become available.

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This incident raises significant questions about the security and strategic concerns in the Black Sea region, with the cause of the explosion and the extent of the damage remaining unclear.

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