Russia’s Black Sea fleet operations have been greatly complicated and paralyzed

Russia’s Moskva warship was seen burning in the Black Sea after it was hit by two Neptune Anti-ship missiles

Russia’s Black Sea operations have been “greatly complicated, if not paralyzed,” by the nearly two years of all-out war between Moscow and Kyiv, Ukraine’s navy has said, in the latest indicator of the toll wrought on Russia’s naval assets close to Ukraine.

Russia has lost up to 25 of the approximately 80 naval vessels of various types it deployed in the early stages of the Kremlin’s invasion in 2022, Dmytro Pletenchuk, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s navy, told television in remarks reported by several outlets.

Up to 35 of these vessels have posed a “real threat” to Ukraine, Pletenchuk said, offering Russia long-range strike capabilities and enabling Russian operations around the annexed Crimean peninsula and in southern Ukraine.

“Now 25 different units have been destroyed, and 15 are currently under repair,” Pletenchuk said.

Shortly after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Black Sea emerged as a key battleground. Ukraine has vowed to reclaim Crimea, which sits to the south of the mainland on the Black Sea, but has been controlled by the Kremlin’s forces since its annexation in 2014.

Ukraine has whittled away at Russia’s naval assets in the Black Sea, successfully carrying out dramatic strikes deemed deeply embarrassing to Moscow. Kyiv’s victorious operations against the Black Sea fleet have proved more fruitful than Ukraine’s stalled hopes of peeling back Russian control across the east and south of the mainland.

In late December, British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said Russia had lost 20 percent of its Black Sea fleet in the previous four months.

Ukraine is known to have destroyed a Russian Kilo-class submarine, as well as damaging a number of Moscow’s landing ships, such as the Minsk, the Saratov and the Olenegorsky Gornyak. In the early months of the war, Russia’s Black Sea flagship, the Moskva, sank beneath the waves, Ukraine claiming its Neptune missiles were responsible.

Earlier this month, Ukraine said its military intelligence agency had destroyed a Russian missile-armed corvette, the Ivanovets, with a number of seaborne drones. The vessel sustained a “number of direct hits to the hull” before sinking, Kyiv said, valuing it at up to $70 million.

Ukraine used the country’s MAGURA V5 surface drones in the attack, Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, told The War Zone.

The Kremlin has relocated some of its Black Sea assets from the peninsula to its Novorossiysk base, in Russia’s Krasnodar region further from Ukraine’s coastline.

Russia is also thought to be establishing another Black Sea base in Abkhazia, a breakaway region internationally recognized as part of Georgia. This would move Russia’s resources in the Black Sea even further away from Ukraine’s reach.

Ukraine does not have a strong navy, but has wielded uncrewed vehicles and Western-provided missiles to great effect. In December, the U.K. and Norway said they would donate mine-clearing vessels, nearly two dozen raiding craft and 20 amphibious vehicles to the Ukrainian navy under a new Maritime Capability Coalition.

The donations from Kyiv’s NATO allies will help Ukraine to “transform its navy,” bringing it in line with the alliance and boost security in the Black Sea, the U.K. government said at the time.

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