According to a purported eyewitness account posted in the Ukrainian Communications Portal (UPK.com), the skirmish took place, during a night-time landing of Russian troops at Ochamchira, where the troops were to meet up with their vehicles and supplies, arriving from Russia to Abkhazia by railroad.
The identity of the allegedly sunk Georgian ship was initially reported as the missile boat Tbilisi. However, that ship is now documented on film as having been destroyed in the port of Poti along with the other missile boat of the Georgian Navy, the Dioskuria. The remaining units, all but one also destroyed in Poti, are small patrol ships of either the Georgian Navy or its Coast Guard. It is the latter's fastest unit (35 knots), P-21 Giorgi Toreli, that is identified now by consensus as the vessel sunk at the Battle off the coast of Abkhazia, with the probable total loss of its crew.
The Tbilisi is a Matka class missile boat while the P-21 Giorgi Toreli is a Stenka class patrol boat. Their radar signature and other electronic activity could conceivably have led to confusion, provided no missiles were fired by the Georgian vessel, as neither ship has such weaponry.
The Russian Navy dispatched two task forces from Sevastopol, one allegedly to impose a naval blockade on Georgia, while the other, bearing amphibious troops and assisted by guided missile cruiser Moskva and smaller missile-warfare capable ships allegedly advanced to the coast of Abkhazia, to the small port of Ochamchira. The possibly 400 troops on board were to strike deep from Ochamchira to points north (Kodori Gorge), southeast Senaki and south Poti.
According to Chinese reporting citing unnamed Russian sources the blockading units were assigned the task to not allow arms and military hardware supplies to reach Georgia by sea.
Unconfirmed Georgian information reported the Russian task forces allegedly moving toward Georgia comprised the following units with the exact allocation to each one task force yet undetermined:
- Kashin class destroyer (Upgraded) Smetlivy
- Alligator class landing ship Saratov.
- Ropucha class landing ships Caesar Kunikov and Yamal.
- Albatros-class Anti-Submarine Corvettes Kasimov, Povorino and Suzdalets.
- Nanuchka class corvette Mirazh.
- Bora class guided missile hovercraft Samum
- Moma Class Surveillance ship Ekvator.
- Natya Class Minesweepers Zhukov and Turbinist.
- Small Landing Ship Koida
- Sorum Class Fleet Tug MB-31.
The task force was co-ordinated and deployed from Sevastopol in Ukraine, home port of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
While the Georgian authorities are silent on any naval battle, they have claimed detailed information as to the damages inflicted on Georgia by the Black Sea Fleet, besides the blockade mission asserted by Georgia. The Russian task force, according to the Georgian Foreign Ministry statement, landed 4,000 troops and met up with their armor in Ochamchira. It then went on to support an attack against Georgian troops deployed at Kodori Gorge and struck deep into Georgia proper, reaching the port of Poti (another difficult feat to accomplish since Kodori Gorge is in the mountains east of Sukhumi while Poti is on the coast some distance south of Sukhumi).
The Georgian source goes on to allege that a missile attack was launched against an inland target in "Kodori" by the Russian guided missile cruiser Moskva. (Neither of the actions noted by the Georgian source could have been accomplished by the Russian naval force alleged to have operated off the Georgian coast. The listed ships could not have supported the landing of 4,000 troops and the cruiser Moskva possesses no armament designed to attack inland ground targets. Further, the Kodori Gorge lies generally east-west and is located 40-50 miles east of Sukhumi while the Port of Poti is on the coast some 70 miles south of Sukhumi.)
According to Black Sea Fleet officials, Georgian Navy ships consisting of two missile boats and two auxiliary craft breached the "security zone" declared around the Russian Navy ships off Abkhazia. The Russian Ministry of Defence claimed that, after two Russian attempts at hailing the intruding units, the Russian units opened fire with naval anti-ship missiles, sinking one of the attacking ships and forcing the remaining three Georgian warships to withdraw towards the port of Poti. While the Georgian sources remain silent about the engagement, Abkhazian officials confirmed that some battle took place off their coast.
It was to transpire one day later than claimed by other sources[nb 1] and was confirmed by official Russian sources as having taken place on 10 August 2008, and that a Georgian warship was struck and sunk in 300 m of water by two P-120 Malakhit (SS-N-9 'Siren') missiles, fired by the guided missile corvette MRK Mirazh. Furthermore, the Russians were on record as believing that a second ship was also damaged. More problematically, Russian press reported, as did the Russian witness sailor, that the vessel sunk in action was the missile boat Tbilisi, but this proved to be false. It is now believed that the vessel destroyed was the fast P-21 patrol ship Giorgi Toreli, a Coast Guard Border Patrol vessel, armed with two 30mm automatic cannons.
According to a second-hand blogger, Russian sources claim that P-21 "disappeared from the surface" within 90 seconds in 300 m of water.
Russian land forces that landed in Ochamchira took control of the port of Poti on 12 August 2008. According to the Georgian government all the naval vessels there, most of which were Coast Guard Border Police patrol vessels, were destroyed at the pier by the demolition teams or hauled off and sunk in shallow water just outside the port entry, as was the case with the missile boat Dioskuria. The crews were permitted to leave beforehand, unharmed. The commanding officer of the corvette Mirazh, Captain 3rd Rank Ivan Dubik, was received in Moscow by Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, who awarded him a military medal, along with another members of the Russian armed forces.
- From a Ukrainian press interview with a Russian sailor.
- Shachtman, Noah (15 August 2008). "Inside the Battle for the Black Sea". Danger Room. Wired magazine. Archived from the original on 21 August 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080821033453/http://blog.wired.com/defense/2008/08/while-the-media.html. Retrieved 21 August 2008.
- Georgian Navy Forces Would Like to Show Their Strength // NTV, 10 August 2008
- Russia vs. Georgia Sea Battle // RTR, 10 August 2008 (Russian)
- "Facts of aggression committed by the Russian Black Sea Fleet". Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. August 2008. Archived from the original on 18 August 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080818062854/http://www.mfa.gov.ge/index.php?lang_id=ENG&sec_id=461&info_id=7322. Retrieved 21 August 2008. Archived by WebCite at webcitation.org/5ajEQ34sm.
- Russian navy blockade Georgia, Xinhua, 10 August 2008 ("Meanwhile, the Abkhaz law enforcement agencies confirmed that several Georgian warships attempted on Saturday to approach the coast of Abkhazia. But the attempts were curbed by ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.")
- Black Sea Fleet Moving Towards Georgia
- "Ukraine Ready For Talks With Russia About Return Of Russian Black Sea Ships To Crimea". Ukrainian News Agency. 11 August 2008. Archived from the original on 3 September 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080903013420/http://www.ukranews.com/eng/article/141696.html. Retrieved 14 August 2008.
- Quoting the MFA Black Fleet Damages in Georgia report: "The landing force consisted of 4000 military personnel, battle tanks and other military hardware have been disembarked by the Russian Black Sea Fleet vessels in port of Ochamchira. The personnel have advanced towards the Kodori Gorge and attacked territory controlled by the Georgian side, while the battle tanks and other military hardware have advanced towards Senaki; the guided missile cruiser has committed missile attack on Kodori." Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- "Russian news agencies report sunken Georgian ship". Associated Press. 10 August 2008. Archived from the original on 30 October 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20081030071403/http://rutube.ru/tracks/972547.html?v=ca8d788c3818ad74d1aee475b793f3f9. Retrieved 8 November 2008.
- Russian president meeting with servicemen
- Peacekeepers Receive Medals
- Reports: Russia sinks Georgian ship trying to attack Russian navy ships, The Jerusalem Post, 10 Aug 2008
- "The boat 'Tbilisi' rocket literally blown to pieces: party operations in the Black Sea 13 August 2008 (Russian)
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