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Is Russia Ready to Blockade Ukraine?

Kirov-class Battlecruiser. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Kirov-class Battlecruiser. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The fighting on the ground in Ukraine continues, but the war goes beyond the trenches and fields of the Donbas and southern Ukraine.

Although international pressure had pacified (within reason) the Black Sea, now the large body of water is once more an active battlefield after Moscow walked back on an important agreement this week.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative

On Monday, the Kremlin didn’t renew its involvement in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a brokered security agreement that allowed Ukraine to ship grain to the world, thus saving millions of people from famine.

Then, on Wednesday, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that going forward, it will assume that all vessels approaching Ukraine are carrying weapons, suggesting that it would attack on sight.

Russia likely made the decision to leave some time ago because it decided that the deal was no longer serving its interests. Russia has masked this with disinformation, claiming its withdrawal is instead due to concerns that civilian ships are at risk from Ukrainian mines and that Ukraine was making military use of the grain corridor without providing evidence for these claims,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest estimate of the war.

So now, the Russian navy is likely to take to the sea and prevent any merchant vessels from approaching Ukraine. But that isn’t as easy as one might think. The Russian Black Sea Fleet has lost its flagship, the guided-missile cruiser The Moskva, from a Ukrainian missile attack.

“[In addition] Blockade operations will be at risk from Ukrainian uncrewed surface vehicles and coastal defence cruise missiles,” the British Military Intelligence added.

Through the constant fear of attack and sabotage, the Ukrainian military has successfully contained the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet in its ports on the Crimean Peninsula and southern Russia. Indeed, Russian surface combatants are playing almost a nonexistent part in the war, and only submarines continue to operate and in a very specific role (launching cruise missiles against Ukrainian urban centers).

Russian Casualties in Ukraine

On day 513 of the Russian invasion, the fighting continues to be bloody on both sides. On the Russian end, the Kremlin persists to lose a steady number of men (approximately 500 killed, wounded, and captured) every day.  

The Ukrainian counteroffensive is moving slower and has reduced the number of casualties for both sides. However, at some point, the operational tempo will increase once more, and with it, the casualty rate.  

Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Thursday, Ukrainian forces have killed and wounded approximately 240,010 Russian troops, destroyed 322 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 310 attack and transport helicopters, 4,129 tanks, 4,592 artillery pieces, 8.065 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 692 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 18 boats and cutters, 7,134 vehicles and fuel tanks, 433 anti-aircraft batteries, 3,918 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 685 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 1,293 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.

A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. He is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in Strategy, Cybersecurity, and Intelligence at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

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1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.