• Videos showed patrol ship Vasily Bykov sailing into the Black Sea port of Sevastopol
  • Military watchers said the videos, taken Wednesday, were of the same ship
  • The U.S. says Russian ships are shelling targets in the suburbs of Odessa

A Russian warship, claimed to have been sunk by the Ukrainian forces, is reportedly intact. Videos and photos doing the rounds on social media showed the Russian Navy's Project 22160 patrol ship Vasily Bykov sailing into the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in Crimea without any visible damage, casting a big shadow over the veracity of information coming from Kyiv.

It was reported that the Vasily Bykov attacked Ukraine's Snake Island on Feb. 24 and asked the guards manning a Black Sea outpost to surrender. However, the soldiers defiantly resisted the order and replied, "go f*** yourself." Though it was initially claimed that the guards refused to surrender and were killed after the warship fired at them, later reports said they were "alive and well" and were "taken captive by Russian occupiers."

Soon after, the Ukrainian navy claimed it destroyed the vessel after hitting it with multiple launch rocket systems in the Black Sea near Odessa. Videos purportedly showing the rocket exchange and a "ship burning" were shared on social media at the time. However, the footage may have been of a commercial ship that was damaged by an errant Russian missile early in the conflict, The Drive reported.

Though many expressed doubts whether the ship that entered the Crimean port was indeed the Vasily Bykov, military watchers confirmed it was the same vessel and that the video was captured Wednesday.

The possibility that the Russian navy could have repainted one of its other two Project 22160 patrol ships, the Dmitriy Rogachev or the Pavel Derzhavin, to make it look like Vasily Bykov has also been rejected. Trackers confirmed that was not the case after comparing the present and old images of the ship.

The Ukrainian claim about destroying the Vasily Bykov was questioned from the very beginning as there were doubts about shore-based short-range, unguided artillery rocket systems being able to hit a relatively small target sailing in the Black Sea, The Drive said.

However, it was then claimed that the Ukrainian troops managed to do this by luring the ship toward the shore using small patrol boats. According to Odessa-based newspaper Dumskaya, this was a specially designed secret operation of the Ukrainian navy. According to that version, two Ukrainian speedboats provoked the Russian ship to follow them, so that it sailed right into the prepared area of artillery fire and was successfully destroyed. The report also claimed that this was "the first time in the world military history that a missile vessel was destroyed by the land-based MLRS system."

Vasily Bykov's "reappearance" came at a time when the U.S. said Russian ships were shelling targets in the suburbs of Odessa. "We do see increased naval activity in the northern Black Sea," a senior Pentagon official told reporters Wednesday.

The reports of the destruction of the Vaily Bykov are just one of the many propaganda stories that have been successfully disguised as real news by the Ukrainians. While both the Russians and Ukrainians have spread such false narratives, the Ukrainian ones have been readily lapped up by western media outlets eager to show the "underdog" is winning against the "aggressor."

Another such piece of fake news is that of the "Ghost of Kyiv," an Ukrainian ace who supposedly shot down "several" Russian aircraft over the Ukraine capital. Ground reports paint a different picture, saying the Ukrainian air force has suffered severe damage, even if not completely out, and the Russians having air-defense cover over most of Ukraine. Yet this story has been amplified heavily by western media outlets, especially British tabloids.

Russian Navy vessels are anchored in a bay of the Black Sea port of Sevastopol
Representation. File image of Russian Navy vessels anchored in a bay of the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in Crimea. Reuters / Stringer .