Ukrainian Navy flagship heads home and proves she did not defect to pro-Russia faction

Report and photographs by Special Correspondent Cem Devrim Yaylali, Istanbul

The flagship of the Ukrainian Navy, the Krivak Class frigate Hetman Sahaydachny, passed through the Turkish Straits and is today in the Black Sea. Despite conflicting reports (see our accompanying coverage) the Hetman Sahaydachny was flying the Ukrainian flag, indicating the ship is currently in the hands of pro-Kiev sailors rather than defecting to the pro-Russian autonomous region of Crimea.


Hetman Sahaydachny steams through the waters of the Bosphorus, with Istanbul in the background. Photo: Cem Devrim Yaylali.

The Ukrainian frigate was returning from conducting anti piracy operations first with Combined Task Force-151 and later with Operation Atalanta since September 2013, working closely alongside NATO and EU nation navies.

The normal homeport of the ship is Sevastopol, which is currently under the control of Russian forces. It is possible the frigate is now heading for Odessa, the other major naval port of Ukraine (which has experienced unrest but is still in Kiev government hands).

A large Ukrainian flag was hoisted as Hetman Sahaydachny passed through the Bosphorus, a bold sign of the warship’s allegiance. The large patrol boat TCSG-90, from Turkish Coast Guard, escorted the Ukrainian vessel during her passage. A few minutes later the Turkish Navy frigate Yavuz passed through the Bosphorus and followed Hetman Sahaydachny towards the Black Sea. The Turkish warship was not officially shadowing the Ukrainian frigate, or escorting her, but the presence of Yavuz was not a coincidence either.

Stop Press: On the morning of March 5, the Ukrainian defence ministry released a statement that Hetman Sahaydachny had reached home waters. A defence ministry statement declared the frigate had ‘entered Ukrainian territorial waters…now she is near Odessa port.’ It added: ‘Military officials are currently solving the personnel accommodation and logistic support. The personnel are ready to accomplish the orders of the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff of Ukraine.’


The Ukrainian frigate has clearly not defected to the pro-Russian faction as she still flies the Ukrainian ensign. Photo: Cem Devrim Yaylali.
A tighter shot of Hetman Sahaydachny’s Ukrainian ensign as Hetman Sahaydachny passes through the Bosphorus. Photo: Cem Devrim Yaylali.
Hetman Sahaydachny steams off into an uncertain future as she prepares to leave Turkish waters and enter the Black Sea. Photo: Cem Devrim Yaylali.
All photos are strictly © Cem Devrim Yaylali, 2013. For more by Cem Devrim Yaylali visit

Russian marines and paras seize Crimean peninsula

by Charles Strathdee

A Russian naval infantry brigade tasked with protecting the base at Sevastopol was deployed to spearhead a well-executed operation to seize control of the Crimean peninsula in the Ukraine. Meanwhile, airborne troops from Russia itself were flown in to airheads that had been secured earlier to reinforce the marines.

They completed the take-over within a few days. The Ukrainian Naval Force headquarters in Sevastopol was surrounded while its newly appointed Commander-in-Chief defected to the pro-Russian government of the autonomous Crimea.

A Russian Navy missile boat blockaded a Ukraine Coast Guard base at Balaclava. While it was reported several vessels were allowed to withdraw from the Crimea, the Ukrainian defence ministry said its units were staying where they were in Sevastopol harbour with hatches battened down.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian marines were bottled up in their barracks, literally in a face-off with Russian naval infantry. Calls for a Ukrainian marine battalion to surrender and leave its camp were declined but combat did not yet erupt.

At one naval base an attempt by pro-Russian forces to hijack a marine infantry armoured personnel carrier were thwarted by Ukrainian personnel forming a human chain around it. Even shots fired in the air did not move them and the would-be hijackers retreated according to the Ukrainian defence ministry

With a massive Russian military presence already in various bases in the Crimea, which remains home to the Black Sea Fleet (BSF) under a leaseback arrangement, it was relatively simple for the Kremlin’s take-over to go ahead.

One of the most intriguing twists, however, concerned the flagship of the Ukrainian fleet, the Krivak III Class frigate Hetman Sahaydachny, which was reportedly plunged into a dilemma with echoes of the famed Russian battleship Potemkin.

The Hetman Sahaydachny was concluding a deployment with NATO and EU navies east of Suez, combating pirates, when mass protests in Kiev led to the fall of the pro-Russian regime led by President Viktor Yanukovych.

Russian sources soon claimed the ship had declared continuing allegiance to Yanukovych and would return to Sevastopol to come under the command of the Crimean government. The same sources, claiming the Russian naval ensign was now flown by the frigate, also alleged the Ukrainian government had asked Turkey to stop the frigate coming through the Straits to enter the Black Sea. Ukrainian government sources claimed she had not defected and still flew the Ukrainian ensign.

They released a photo of the warship berthed alongside at a NATO base in Crete to prove their point. The new head of the Ukrainian Navy, Rear Admiral Andriy Tarasov said: “Ukrainian servicemen serve for the Ukrainian people and sail under the Ukrainian flag.” As this magazine went to press it was still uncertain what the frigate’s ultimate fate would be: Would she head for a Ukrainian port such as Odessa or the Crimea? See accompanying news update.

In 1905 the Potemkin’s crew mutinied against cruel officers, killing several, while cruising off the Ukrainian coast. The pre-dreadnought ended up in a Romanian port after wandering the Black Sea pursued by Imperial Russian Navy vessels.  On March 4/5 this year the Ukrainian frigate passed through the Bosphorus, allegedly heading for Odessa.

Meanwhile it was claimed by the Ukrainians that an attempt by the Russians to board and seize their command ship Slavutych, trapped in a Crimean port, was repelled.


The Ukrainian Navy flagship Hetman Sahaydachny at the NATO naval facility in Souda Bay, Crete following the Russian seizure of Crimea Photo: Ukrainian defence ministry.


The Ukrainian Navy command vessel Slavutych, whose crew reportedly repelled a Russian attempt to board and size her. Photo: Ukrainian defence ministry.


Sailors of the Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaydachny show their loyalty to the Kiev government by making the national symbol of the Ukraine on the flight-deck of their warship. Photo: Ukrainian defence ministry.

For more details on WARSHIPS IFR magazine, visit the publication’s web site: The April 2014 edition hits the streets from March 21.

Archive by month

Archive by year