Uncrewed vessel washes up in Crimea

At least one and possibly two uncrewed surface vessels have washed up on a rocky shoreline outside the Russian Navy stronghold of Sevastopol, Crimea.

Photographs of the apparently improvised black craft showed that it was fitted with an electro-optical camera, a laser rangefinder, and two steel protrusions on the bow which could be detonators or contactors for an explosive device. A flat panel mounted on the stern could have been a satellite antenna for a remote-control uplink. The bow was marked with the characters “4 5 VZNSI.”

Remote-controlled “bomb boats” are not unheard of and have been used extensively during the civil war in Yemen. The uncrewed craft have been used by Houthi rebels to hit Saudi shipping. But this vessel was the first observed example of such a vessel, if indeed this is what it was, in the Black Sea as part of the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Russian social media posts claimed that two such vessels could have been recovered from the beach. Photos published the same day show an explosion off the coast, possibly indicating a controlled detonation of a USV craft.

The Russian Navy has pulled its attack submarines out of Sevastopol and relocated them to its base in Novorossyisk, about 170 nm to the east, according to UK intelligence. Ukrainian forces have staged successful strikes on Russian assets in Crimea over the past month, including a large-scale attack on a Russian naval airbase and several drone strikes on the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

UK Defence Intelligence Agency said in an update earlier this week that the relocation was highly likely because of the recent change in the local security threat level in the face of increased Ukrainian long-range strike capability.