Russia has reportedly deployed the Bal coastal anti-ship missile system to Kerch in Crimea where the confrontation with the Ukrainian Navy took place earlier this week.
According to reports, several Bal coastal missile systems alongside other military equipment were spotted on the 15th kilometre of Sevastopol – Kerch highway on Tuesday.
Bal (‘Ball’, SSC-6 ‘Sennight’, GRAU 3K60) is a Russian coastal missile systems equipped with Zvezda Kh-35/Kh-35E subsonic anti-ship cruise missiles. The system is designed to attack naval vessels up to 5,000 tonnes.
A Bal system has four self-propelled launcher vehicles each carrying eight missiles for a total of 32 missiles in a salvo, plus reloads for another wave. The launchers can be up to 10 km from the coast and hit targets at ranges up to 120 km (75 mi; 65 nmi). In 2015, plans were announced to equip the Bal system with an upgraded version of the Kh-35E to increase range to 300 km (190 mi; 160 nmi).
Following a day-long confrontation in the the Kerch Strait, Russia has captured three Ukrainian Navy vessels – two small armored artillery boats and a tugboat. The incident left six Ukrainian sailors injured and multiple Ukrainian and Russian vessels damaged.
The confrontation started in the morning when a Russian Coast Guard ship, Don, rammed an Ukrainian Navy tugboat, Yana Kapu, in the Kerch Strait between Russia and Crimea. Yana Kapu, along with two small armored artillery boats, named Berdyansk and Nikopol, were transiting from the Black Sea port of Odessa to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov, via the Kerch Strait following a homeport change.
The Ukrainian Navy ships were confronted by Russian Coast Guard vessels including a Project 745P Sorum-class seagoing tug, named Don; Suzdalets corvette; Project 12200 Sobol class patrol boats and Project 12150 Mangust class patrol boats. The Russian Coast Guard is part of the Border Guard Service of Russia under the Federal Security Service of Russia (FSB).
According to the Ukrainian Navy statement, Don has rammed the Ukrainian tug and as a result the main engine of the ship, hull, and guardrail was damaged. FSB’s Crimean border department said in a statement that the Ukrainian Navy vessels entered the waters illegally and deliberately provoked the conflict.
Following the ramming incident, Russia blocked off the strait by positioning a tanker ship under the Kerch bridge, connecting Russia with Crimea. Dozens of cargo ships which were awaiting passage are now stuck.
According to the Ukrainian Navy, the Russian service members later open fired on U175 Berdyansk, one of the Gyurza-M class artillery boats involved in the confrontation, wounding at least one sailor. The Navy statement added at that time that the vessel was damaged with a lost engine following the incident.