Ukrainian security services released exclusive footage to CNN showing the moment in July when they used an experimental sea drone to attack Russia’s bridge to annexed Crimea, providing new details about the attack and warning that more such attacks will follow.
It is the first time that the SBU has openly claimed responsibility for the operation.
The July 17 attack caused damage to the highway lanes of the bridge and, according to Russian officials, killed two civilians. It was the second attack on the vital crossing and showed how difficult it is to defend the only independent Russian link to the peninsula.
The bridge was inaugurated to much fanfare by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018 and symbolizes his desire to seize Ukraine and unite it with Russia forever. It is also a vital supply link for Russia’s military operation in Crimea.
ukraine bridge crimea
A view of the Crimean Bridge, also known as the Kerch Bridge, the only direct link between Russia and the Crimean peninsula. (Credit: Reuters)
SBU chief Vasyl Maliuk told CNN that the drone used, called the “Sea Baby,” was the result of months of development that began just after the invasion. “Marine surface drones are a unique invention of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU),” he said. “None of the private companies are involved. Using these drones, we recently carried out a successful strike on the Crimean bridge, the large assault ship Olengorskiy Gornyak, and the SIG tanker.”
Maliuk was referring to the SIG tanker stricken in the Black Sea which Ukrainian authorities say was carrying fuel for the Russian military. The attack on the Russian assault ship demonstrated further range for the Ukrainian military, hitting a ship with a possible 100-strong personnel on board, in the Russian naval port of Novorossiysk on the eastern Black Sea coast.
The SBU provided CNN with video of the July attack, showing the pilot’s screen moments before the Sea Baby dropped up to 850 kilograms of explosives at one of the bridge’s concrete support pillars. Sources from the service also provided two CCTV videos to CNN showing the moment of a drone impact on the highway section of the bridge, and then another drone blast hitting the railway section about five minutes later, from the direction opposite.
Why the attacked bridge in Crimea is so important to Vladimir Putin
The “Sea Baby” drones are the result of months of development that began right after the invasion, according to the SBU chief. (Credit: Ukrainian Security Service)
Ukraine has been coy about the attacks, confirming its involvement through anonymous statements and vague references to “unidentified floating objects,” and Maliuk’s outright claim of responsibility marks a usually blunt attempt to alert Moscow to the threat posed by these new drones pose.
“We are working on several exciting new operations, including in the Black Sea waters. I promise you, it will be exciting, especially for our enemies,” Maliuk said.
Maliuk also claimed responsibility for the first Ukrainian attack on the bridge, on October 8, but declined to provide details. The circumstances of the attack, which CCTV footage appeared to show was caused by an explosion from a moving truck on the bridge, remain unclear.
The SBU chief said the July drone strike was the product of months of preparation. He said the Kerch attack was a joint operation with the Ukrainian navy, which he led together with Naval Admiral Oleksiy Neizhpapa.
Ukraine attacks key bridge connecting Crimea to Russia; Putin promises retaliation
Damage to the Crimean bridge after the July 17 attack. (Credit: Reuters)
“In the final stage of the preparation we couldn’t even think about sleeping or eating,” he told CNN. “We were fully focused on the operation. The last few days were quite nervous. When the explosion happened, we were very happy and began to congratulate each other. This was a very emotional moment for all of us and our victory, which will definitely come soon.”
Maliuk said that Ukraine’s western partners have shown interest in its operations and willingness to learn from its experience. But he said: “They are not involved in our operations or provide us with any equipment or anything. These drones are produced in an underground production facility on the territory of Ukraine. The targets I have mentioned are legitimate targets under Ukrainian and international law.”
The attack on the Gornyak ship and the SIG showed the expanded threat to Russia’s naval operations in the eastern part of the Black Sea, an area that Mos