This article by Jake Epstein was originally published by Business Insider.
A new video from Ukraine’s intelligence agency shows how one of its drone boats managed to strike a key bridge in the occupied Crimean peninsula last month without facing any obvious resistance from Russia.
The Security Service of Ukraine, or SBU, provided exclusive footage to CNN of the moment when an experimental drone called “Sea Baby” attacked the Kerch Bridge with over 1,850 pounds of explosives on July 17, killing two civilians, damaging parts of the bridge, and temporarily suspending traffic.
The video obtained by CNN includes a first-person view from a thermal camera on the drone, which is what the operator saw, as well as the view from a security camera on the bridge. CCTV footage captures a massive explosion, which Russia failed to prevent, despite Moscow claiming that it has the capabilities to disrupt such attacks.
The 12-mile-long Kerch Bridge, also known as the Crimean Bridge, connects mainland Russia with Crimea and is an important route for Moscow’s economic and military activity in the occupied territory. It also represents a prized accomplishment of Russian President Vladimir Putin and is a symbol of the Kremlin’s hope to maintain an enduring occupation of the peninsula.
The July incident marked the second time that the bridge has been attacked, raising questions about Russia’s ability to actually defend the massive structure. Before the latest incident, a truck bomb detonated on the bridge in October 2022, killing three people and forcing a shutdown of rail and vehicle traffic for months.
Ukraine has made increasing use of sea drones to strike critical Russian targets around the Black Sea, using the weapons to compensate for its lack of a strong navy and even launching a crowdfunding campaign for what Kyiv calls “the formation of the world’s first naval fleet of drones.”
On Wednesday, Ukraine’s SBU published several photos and videos of the “Sea Baby” drone used in the Kerch Bridge attack on its Telegram channel. The system can be seen cruising through open waters.
“Sea surface drones are a unique invention of the Security Service of Ukraine,” Vasyl Maliuk, the head of the SBU, told CNN, adding that “none of the private companies are involved.” He said Ukraine began developing the drones shortly after Russia launched its February 2022 full-scale invasion and that they have been used in recent attacks on a Russian naval ship and a merchant tanker.
Earlier this month, Ukrainian drone boats hit the Russian warship Olenegorsky Gornyak at the port of Novorossiysk, badly damaging the vessel. And like the Kerch Bridge strike, the drone that struck the landing ship did so without meeting any obvious resistance. A day later, sea drones hit the Sig tanker, which has been used to transport fuel and military supplies between Russia and Syria.
Britain’s defense ministry wrote in an August 9 intelligence update that these recent attacks show how Ukrainian drone boat operations “are increasingly a major component of modern naval warfare and can be turned against the weakest links of Russia’s sea supply lanes.”
Tensions in the Black Sea have been particularly high in recent weeks after Russia killed a crucial grain deal and moved to militarize the region by declaring that ships sailing to Ukrainian ports will be considered as potential carriers of military cargo. Moscow appeared to follow through on its threat for the first time this week as Russian forces raided a cargo ship bound for Ukraine and interrogated the crew. Following the raid, the vessel was allowed to proceed to its intended destination.
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