Sevastopol imagery – 15 March 2022

  • Two target ships sought after in imagery
  • Both shown to not be in Sevastopol Bay
  • One turned up a day later

I was keen to know the location of two Russian navy ships that were operating in the vicinity of Sevastopol and the Black Sea region.

The first was Project 1164 Slava-class CGHM Moskva. From satellite imagery available on Sentinel, it was known she had arrived on or around 9 March 2022. She was still present in imagery available from 14 March 2022.

Moskva almost always ties up at the same location so is easy to locate when at the base. In Sentinel SAR imagery (and EO for that matter) you can also measure the length to help assist with the ID.

With the events taking place in the Black Sea, I thought 5 days was quite a long time to be at the base, so it was worth seeing if she was still there on the 15th – Sentinel imagery for that day wasn’t available at the time.

My second target was Project 22160 Bykov-class Corvette Vasily Bykov. If you’ve read my previous blogs, I didn’t believe she had been sunk, and even thought she was elsewhere in the the theatre of operations – possibly the Sea of Azov which I had been monitoring since the alleged “sinking”. This operating area is just a guess though. I’m sure we’ll never really find out.

Moreover, there had been rumours that Vasily Bykov was to always work with Moskva so if one was definitely in Sevastopol, based on the “rumours”, they both should be.

I also had a hunch, that if my guess about being elsewhere was correct, then maybe Vasily Bykov could have arrived anyway, regardless of being with Moskva or not. Having been out the same length of time, she must have needed resupplying as much as Moskva did.

I requested an image collection from Capella on the morning of 15 March 2022, and was lucky enough to get a pass that evening at 1826z, about seven hours after the request had gone in.

This revealed that both Moskva had departed, and that Vasily Bykov was not in.

Whilst this might be looked upon as negative, it isn’t. Intel is Intel. It was now known that Moskva was on her way somewhere and had been stocked up – as it turns out in imagery available later in Sentinel, to take part in operations east of Odessa.

It also showed that Vasily Bykov wasn’t operating with Moskva as per the rumours.

And, low and behold on 16 March 2022, Vasily Bykov did turn up at Sevastopol. A miracle one would say, bearing in mind it was supposed to have been sunk a few weeks earlier.

It wasn’t a bad guess she’d turn up – just 24 hours later than my hunch.

The Capella imagery also showed that there wasn’t much else in the bay. The southern area was empty bar one Kilo-class SSK.

The area next to Moskva‘s normal home was also pretty empty. Just one possible Project 1135M Krivak II-class FFM was present. The imagery for this is a little blurred due to the angle of the collection (44 degrees) and the sweep of the SAR itself. This places the ship almost on its side, but the profile does look like a Krivak-II.

If not, it is a Project 11356M Grigorovich-class FFGH – they are the same length, though the profile is slightly different due to the heli-deck.

This doesn’t appear to have the heli-deck and looks to be stepped down to the stern for accommodate the two AK-100 guns.

Regardless, the imagery from Capella was well timed. Whilst the areas out at sea were clear, over Sevastopol itself it was cloudy so EO wasn’t usable – Sentinel didn’t have any EO passes there anyway – and the Sentinel SAR is nowhere near as good as Capella’s.

Unfortunately, I have no collections available to me over Sevastopol today (16 March 2022) so I can’t see Vasily Bykov, and it looks like other ships are also returning – with Project 775 Ropucha-class LST Kondopoga reported to have arrived too.

Vasily Bykov – the end (of the fake news)

I’m not going to beat around the bush on this one.

It was totally obvious in the first place – Vasily Bykov has turned up in Sevastopol on 16 March 2022 without a scratch!

I’m just going to say one thing.

Don’t bother with OSINT – or any other type of reporting/Intelligence – if you don’t have a clue about what you’re doing!

You can be wrong if it’s a tight thing to work out – as I was with the ID of the actual ship on fire – but the bloody evidence was there! It wasn’t a warship of any type on fire – it was a merchant ship.

And yet, the idiots still don’t believe it!!

I fear for the world we live in!!

Update on “False news on Vasily Bykov”

  • Update on likely ship on fire wrongly identified as Vasily Bykov
  • Location of Vasily Bykov still not confirmed

Whilst the location of Russian Navy Project 22160 Corvette Vasily Bykov is still not known, further analysis of imagery and video shows that my first assessment of the ship on fire being old imagery of Estonian flagged merchant ship Helt is likely incorrect too.

With Moldavian flagged chemical tanker Millennial Spirit somehow still being afloat since it was hit by a Russian missile on 25 February 2022, this is more likely to be the ship wrongly ID’d as Vasily Bykov.

By comparing the image below with that shown in social media, one can clearly see the structures at the bow of Millennial Spirit match exactly. You can also clearly see the red colour of the ship in the video.

Vasily Bykov definitely isn’t red in colour!

Millennial Spirit in its previous guise as Freyja in 2016

Satellite imagery from Sentinel collected on 13 March 2022 shows that Millennial Spirit is still smouldering from fires. She is currently located at 46.36707 31.11753.

FleetMon AIS data below shows the last 12 days of Millennial Spirit before the transmissions ceased. You’ll see that they are not far from those last reported by Helt.

The hunt for Vasily Bykov continues. I even wonder if the ship is still in this area. Time will tell.

False news on Russian Navy Ship “Vasily Bykov”

  • Social media states Russian navy ship sunk by Ukrainian MLRS
  • Evidence provided shows civilian merchant ship, not Russian vessel
  • Hopefully, the ship has been sunk, but more evidence is required
  • AIS data shows possible ship shown in media

This blog has now been replaced by Update on “False news on Vasily Bykov” but kept here for historical value.

It has been reported in social media that Russian Navy Project 22160 Corvette Vasily Bykov has been sunk by Ukrainian Forces using Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), having lured it into an area using other ships.

Whilst I’d like this to be the truth, unfortunately, if the images and video used are correct, it is in fact a merchant ship that has been sunk.

The probability of MLRS hitting a ship in this manner is extremely low. Other reports suggest it hit a mine, which is probably more likely.

Looking at AIS data on FleetMon, it looks like it is Estonian flagged Helt that has sunk and it is old imagery of this event on March 2nd 2022 that is now doing the circuit on Twitter.

Helt was operated by Estonian company VISTA Shipping Agency who reported that the ship had possibly hit a mine.

Ukrainian forces had previously reported the ship had been taken over by the Russian navy and was being used as a decoy.

Regardless of the actual events, the chances that it is Vasily Bykov in the imagery and video are remote. Whether the corvette has actually been sunk is another matter, and time will tell.

The data below from FleetMon shows that at 0504z on 2nd March 2022, Helt started moving to the NE. At 0540z the ship stopped moving, a brief at anchor message was sent, and then the ship started drifting at anchorage.

AIS data ceased at 0640z on 3rd March 2022. VISTA Shipping later reported that day that the ship had sunk with all crew rescued.

Further evidence is needed before any confirmation of the sinking of Vasily Bykov.