Russia no longer deploys warships in the Black Sea after ATACMS strikes in Crimea

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

Russia has no warships deployed in the Black Sea at present, Ukraine’s Navy said on Wednesday, shortly after Moscow said Kyiv had attacked annexed Crimea with U.S.-supplied missiles—using Army Tactical Missile Systems, or ATACMS.

Ukraine’s military didn’t detect Russian warships in the Black and Azov Seas on Wednesday morning. “In the Black and Azov Seas [the] enemy ships are missing,” the press service of the Ukrainian Navy said.

Kyiv has targeted Russia’s Black Sea Fleet throughout President Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of the country, which began in February 2022. Ukraine has vowed to reverse the Russian leader’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, which now serves as Moscow’s central logistics hub for its forces in southern Ukraine.

Russia appears to have relocated some of its prized Black Sea Fleet vessels from its port in Crimea to avoid further losses following successful Ukrainian drone and cruise missile strikes.

Satellite images from last October showed that Russia’s Fleet was fleeing from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk in Krasnodar Krai in southern Russia as Ukraine targeted Moscow’s vessels. Ships were also heading to the Russian naval port in Feodosia further east on the annexed Crimean Peninsula.

More recent satellite images, from last month, shared by open source intelligence OSINT researcher MT Anderson, appear to show that the Black Sea Fleet has largely abandoned its major Crimean naval bases.

Kyiv’s “ultimate goal is complete absence of military ships of the so-called Russian Federation in the Azov and Black Sea regions,” Ukrainian Navy spokesperson Captain Dmytro Pletenchuk said in March.

The navy’s announcement comes shortly after Vladimir Rogov, chairman of We Are Together With Russia, a pro-Russian group that operates in the Moscow-occupied Ukrainian region of Zaporizhzhia, as well as Russian military bloggers, said Ukraine had fired ATACMS at Crimea from the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson overnight on Monday.

“Tonight, militants of the Armed Forces of Ukraine launched a missile attack on the Republic of Crimea,” Rogov wrote on Telegram. “Russian air defense worked over Dzhankoy and Simferopol. According to latest information, our defenders did an excellent job.”

Ukraine launched “several ATACMS ballistic missiles to attack the peaceful peninsula,” Rogov added.

Sergey Aksyonov, the Kremlin-backed leader of Crimea, said undetonated submunitions were scattered in the Simferopol area in the peninsula “after the downing of ATACMS missiles.”

“If you find this ammunition, do not pick it up, do not approach [them],” he said on Telegram.

Ukraine and Russia did not officially comment on the reported strikes. No casualties were reported.

British Defense Minister Grant Shapps assessed last month, after Ukrainian strikes on Sevastopol, that Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has been rendered “functionally inactive.”

“Putin’s continued illegal occupation of Ukraine is exacting a massive cost on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet which is now functionally inactive,” he said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

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