Kyiv has long aimed to recapture the entirety of the occupied Crimean Peninsula. Indeed, this was Ukraine’s goal even before the start of Russia’s full invasion in February 2022.
Though the Ukrainian military hasn’t made a breakthrough to cut off the land bridge to Crimea, it has struck the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet in port in Sevastopol on multiple occasions with drones and missiles.
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As a result, the Kremlin has rebased some of its ships away from Crimea.
Just last month, a missile targeted Russia’s Black Sea naval headquarters building, reportedly killing a number of high-ranking officers. The Kremlin has disputed claims that Adm. Viktor Sokolov was killed in the attack.
The attacks are significant enough that on Wednesday, reports claimed the Russian Navy had started to withdraw its Black Sea Fleet vessels from the base in Sevastopol. This move came after numerous attempts to conceal the ships in port, including by painting the hulls with various camouflage schemes to disrupt or confuse drones. Earlier this year, the bow and stern of the fleet’s flagship, the Admiral Makarov, had been painted navy blue or black — a technique employed during the First World War to confuse enemy submarines into thinking the ship was a lesser target.
Retreat to Novorossiysk
The Russian Black Sea Fleet has reportedly been relocated —or retreated — to Novorossiysk in southern Russia’s Krasnodar Krai, and to the Russian naval port in Feodosia. The reported move affects the Russian frigates Admiral Essen and Admiral Makarov, three diesel submarines, five large landing ships, multiple small missile ships, and one large landing craft, as well as minesweepers and other small ships.
The withdrawal of the bulk of the Black Sea Fleet from its main base in occupied Crimea would be a significant acknowledgment of the threat from Ukrainian missiles and drones. Indeed, it underscores the threat such weapons pose to any surface fleet while it is in port.
“I cannot comment on this in any way,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday regarding the transfer of the Black Sea Fleet ships from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk.
“Naturally, the issues related to the stationing of our units, our ships and our formations are the issues that are within the competence of the Defense Ministry,” Peskov added, according to a report from state media outlet Tass.
Victory in The Battle of the Black Sea for Ukraine
Forcing Russia to move its fleet is the latest victory at sea for Ukraine, a country that essentially has no navy of its own. In the spring of 2022, Kyiv’s forces successfully sunk the flagship guided-missile frigate Moskva with land-based anti-ship launchers.
Kyiv is on track to accomplish its goal to demilitarize the Black Sea Fleet – not that it is much of a fighting force.
“They were all built a long time ago. They have some significant issues with weapons, equipment, and so on,” Andriy Zagorodnyuk, former Ukrainian defense minister and now an adviser to the Defense Ministry, told Newsweek in September.
Without the Black Sea Fleet as an operational force, Russia might struggle to maintain control of Crimea.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.
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