The tanker, designed primarily for rivers and in service since 1978, was carrying 4,000 tonnes of fuel oil in total.
Crew members adrift
Russia and Ukraine have set up a joint crisis centre to deal with the situation, and an aircraft and helicopter were on standby to fly to the area as soon as the weather allows.
“This problem may take a few years to solve. Fuel oil is a heavy substance and it is now sinking to the seabed.
“This is a very serious environmental disaster.”
Almost at the same time as the Volganeft-139 was destroyed, a freighter carrying 2,000 tonnes of sulphur sank in the same storm, off the port of Kavkaz overlooking the Kerch Strait from the Russian side.
Its crew of nine had been rescued after drifting in a raft for a few hours.
“Sulphur is a very inert chemical, and we hope that in the water it will not form any substances dangerous to humans,” Mitvol said.
Several hours later, another freighter carrying sulphur sank off Kavkaz, the regional port administration said.
Three of its crew had been rescued by a Ukrainian ship.
The fate of the other eight was unclear. Meanwhile, a Georgian and Turkish freighter were also stranded off Novorossiisk, Vladimir Yerygin, the port chief said.
Yerygin said both crews were safe.