Vladimir Putin was “in complete rage” over the destruction of the Novocherkassk landing ship and ordered the punishment of Crimea’s air defenses, partisan sources revealed.
The group Atesh, a Ukrainian partisan group that claims to include agents among Russia’s security services, said many commanders were expected to be dismissed and sent to “join assault groups on the frontline” in Ukraine, effectively eliminating them.
This followed the December 26 Ukrainian strike on the Novocherkassk in occupied Crimea which killed 74 sailors and injured 27 more, the Russian navy announced Friday.
Russia’s Black Sea Fleet commander Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov reportedly asked the mayor of Novocherkassk to declare two days of mourning.
The partisan sources stated Putin had issued “an order to punish Crimea’s air defense forces” over the loss of the warship. Atesh advised Russian servicemen wanting to avoid punishment to cite equipment malfunctions in maintenance logs, saying Russia could not intercept all Ukrainian missiles despite commander assurances otherwise.
Ukraine’s Air Force commander Lieutenant General Mykola Oleshchuk confirmed the warship was struck by cruise missiles launched from Su-24 aircraft before dawn on 26 December. The Ukrainian Air Force said that the ship was possibly loaded with Shahed explosive drones, which Russia uses in daily attacks on Ukrainian cities.
Photos later emerged showing the destroyed vessel with massive fragments scattered up to one kilometer away.
Atesh agents said repressions were “spinning up” in Crimea after the attack, with raids confiscating smartphones from residents to uncover “spotters” who enabled the strike.
Teams of operatives from Moscow were arriving to lead investigations by the FSB state security service, military counterintelligence, prosecutors, and various government agencies into the warship’s destruction.
The partisans stated Putin’s furious crackdown showed Russia’s inability to intercept Western-made missiles like Ukraine’s Storm Shadow cruise missile and would lead to military figures being accused of sabotage, despite commanders claiming otherwise.
By dismissing and essentially sacrificing these commanders, Putin aims to deflect responsibility from the failures of Russia’s own air defenses in occupied Crimea, Atesh claims.
This serves to find scapegoats for military failings, as “Putin’s wounded pride manifests in lashing out.” Unable to acknowledge his forces’ failures, “the Russian leader pursues an authoritarian reflex to crack down and eliminate commanders.”
Rather than address air defense weaknesses that allowed the missiles through, “Putin chose repression to cope with humiliation.”
Above all, Atesh reveals “the shifting fortunes of war expose Crimea as a battleground, shattering assumptions of it as an impenetrable Russian stronghold.”
Significance of Novocherkassk’s sinking
The Russian Defense Ministry itself confirmed the Novocherkassk was hit by Ukrainian missiles, validating Ukraine’s claims of responsibility.
Beyond Russia’s military embarrassment, the successful Ukrainian strike represents an important strategic gain by eliminating a major landing vessel.
The large Ivan Gren-class ship was capable of transporting and deploying 13 main battle tanks or 36 armored personnel carriers and 300 marines, as well as amphibious assault equipment.
Its loss not only deals a practical blow to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet transport and landing capabilities, but undermines morale and highlights the apparent impunity enjoyed by Russian forces in occupied Crimea since 2014 evaporating.
Nowhere in the peninsula annexed by Putin’s forces is safe any longer, with Ukrainian missiles able to strike targets previously seen as untouchable bastions like the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol.
- Read more about Atesh and the Ukrainian resistance movement in our article: Missile strikes and spraypaint: how Ukraine’s resistance movement fights Russian occupation