Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Black Sea crisis has deepened as he has just seven ships left in his prized fleet, Ukraine has said.
Ukraine’s Operational Command South, a formation of the Ukrainian Ground Forces that operate in the southern part of the country, said in a Facebook post on Thursday that “stormy weather” has reduced Putin’s Black Sea fleet to just seven vessels.
“While the stormy weather is intensifying in the Black Sea, the enemy flotilla was reduced to seven vessels, including one submarine missile carrier,” Operational Command South said in its daily assessment of the war. “Four Kalibr cruise missiles are on standby. But it is quite likely that more vessels will be deployed to striking positions.”
Newsweek has been unable to independently verify the figures provided by Ukraine. Still, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has sustained major losses since the start of the war, which began after President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in February.
In April, Russia was served a huge blow when the fleet’s flagship vessel, the Moskva, sank.
The missile cruiser sank hours after Ukraine claimed to have dealt significant damage to the vessel with a missile strike. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s adviser Oleksiy Arestovych shared a video on Twitter that he claimed to be footage of the strike.
“The flagship of the Russian navy, Moskva, carried out a negative surfacing operation in the area of that island where it was told to go f*** itself. Where is Moskva? It sunk,” Arestovych wrote.
Russia, meanwhile, denied the claims, saying that any damage to the Soviet-era vessel was caused by fire on board that led to some ammunition detonating.
“During the towing of the Moskva cruiser to the destination port, the ship lost its stability due to damage to the hull received during the fire from the detonation of ammunition. In the conditions of stormy seas, the ship sank,” the Russian Defense Ministry stated at the time.
At least four other vessels from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet have been destroyed, while the latest flagship, Admiral Makarov, was attacked by Ukraine at the end of October.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence assessed in August that Russia was “struggling to exercise effective sea control” as blasts rocked an ammunition depot in Crimea—the Black Sea peninsula illegally annexed by Putin in 2014.
The Black Sea Fleet’s “currently limited effectiveness undermines Russia’s overall invasion strategy,” the ministry said at the time.
Russia also blamed Ukraine for a strike last month on Sevastopol, a city in Crimea that hosts Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
Russia’s defense ministry said nine Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles and seven “maritime drones” conducted a “terrorist attack” on the Black Sea Fleet and civilian ships on the outer and inner roadsteads of its base in Sevastopol.
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