• Ukraine did not want Russian troops laying their hands on the fleet's flagship
  • The 30-year-old frigate was supposedly receiving repairs in the Mykolaiv
  • This was one of the few ships left with Ukraine after the Crimea annexation

Amid reports that beach landing in the southern Ukrainian seaside city of Odessa may be imminent, images show the Ukrainian Navy's flagship Hetman Sahaidachny (U 130) in a partially submerged state.

Analysts believe the vessel was scuttled on purpose as Ukraine doesn't want Moscow laying their hands on the major battlefield trophy, reported The Drive.

The image that was released Thursday shows the ship sitting half-submerged on its side. Experts believe that though the 3,100-ton displacement Krivak III/Menzhinskiy class frigate is relatively powerless to take on Russia's mammoth Black Sea fleet, its seizure would be a major propaganda win for Kremlin.

A report by the Ukrainian news agency Interfax seems to have corroborated the claim, quoting Ukrainian defense minister Oleksiy Reznikov.

"The commander of the flagship of the Ukrainian Navy followed the order to flood the ship so that the Hetman Sahaidachny frigate, which was under repair, would not fall into the hands of the enemy. It is hard to imagine a more difficult decision for a courageous soldier and crew," the news outlet quoted Reznikov Friday.

He added that in the future, Ukraine will build a new fleet, which was "modern and powerful."

Hetman Sahaidachny was the pride of the Ukrainian Navy, which was decimated in the Crimean war of 2014. Post Crimea annexation, Ukraine lost its primary base in Sevastopol, 12 of its 17 major surface combatants, most of its naval aviation assets. The former Soviet nation also lost its main repair, maintenance, training and depot facilities, which all fell under the control of Russian forces.

All that remained in service was Hetman Sagaidachny, with a 100mm deck gun, smaller guns, anti-submarine grenade launchers, torpedo tubes and a helicopter.

When in service, the ship had taken part in "Operation Active Endeavour" in the Mediterranean Sea, aimed to prevent the movement of terrorists or weapons of mass destruction. It has also taken part in NATO's "Operation Ocean Shield," an anti-piracy campaign off the Horn of Africa.

Since then, the 30-year-old frigate was supposedly receiving repairs in the port city of Mykolaiv.

Meanwhile, videos circulating on Twitter show a large flotilla of Russian ships near Crimea. The fleet includes eight Russian tank landing ships, which were previously used for a landing between Berdyansk and Mariupol.

Earlier, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who is also Putin's close ally, had displayed a campaign map suggesting an attack in or near Odesa during a televised presentation.

A U.S. admiral walks past a Ukrainian ship
A file picture of Ukrainian and U.S. naval officers walking past the Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaidachny during a 2015 military drill in Odessa. Reuters/Andrew Kravchenko/Pool