The Russian fleet sinks in the Black Sea

Perhaps not everyone has noticed, but there is at least one front where Ukraine is defeating, almost humiliating, Russia. It is the Black Sea front, where the “naval battle” between an army that paradoxically does not even possess a warship, Kiev, and one that until recently was convinced of possessing the best navy in the world, Moscow, demonstrates all the resilience of the Ukrainians and at the same time reveals the inadequacy of the Kremlin's military commands.

After yet another sinking of a Russian ship north of Sevastopol, in Crimea – the missile carrier Ivanovets was hit and sunk a few days ago by a “swarm of marine drones” – Moscow has now lost “a third of its Black Sea fleet”. According to data from the Ukrainian defense, in fact, 25 Russian vessels have sunk since the beginning of the war at the hands of Kiev, and another 15 have been forced to return to the shipyards for repairs, out of a total of approximately 80 naval vessels.

Moscow's undisputed supremacy in the Black Sea region has been recorded since at least the 18th century onwards. To the point that as late as 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lamented how the Black Sea had now become a “Russian lake” and that, for For that reason, NATO should have had a greater presence there.

Today, however, the Russian lake is starting to dry up with tricolor flags with horizontal white, red and blue bands. The repeated hits scored by the missiles and drones have allowed the Ukrainians to break the naval blockade imposed by the Russians for weeks. So Kiev's freighters have begun to resume shipments of grain and other agricultural products fundamental to its economy. At the same time, the Ukrainian strikes have forced the Black Sea fleet to relocate its warships towards the east, in a defensive position and further away from the disputed Crimean peninsula, where the floating fortress of Sevastopol stands, occupied by Moscow's troops in 2014 and a precious bridgehead for the Mediterranean projection of Russian ambitions.

How it was possible for the Ukrainian army to decimate the Black Sea fleet, eliminating almost a third of the enemy ships, is easy to say: unmanned maritime drones, long-range anti-ship missiles, and accurate intelligence sources. This is demonstrated by the “big blow” of last September 24, 2023, when Kiev bombed the headquarters in Sevastopol, with two missiles that hit the building where a meeting of senior officers was taking place, eliminating the navy's chain of command Russian.

Putin's strategic mistake in wanting to invade Ukrainian territory is therefore manifesting itself in all its evidence precisely in the Black Sea, where his Invencible Armada which was supposed to patrol the Mediterranean region and dominate the warm seas, remained at anchor for too long, ending up becoming an “easy” target for enemy artillery.

Therefore, as we approach the finish line of two years of war, next February 24, and although Moscow's land forces are consolidating the positions conquered in Donbass, the war is at a standstill precisely because Moscow is substantially at a disadvantage on the marine. The manifest technological inability of the Russian navy thus contributed to rebalancing, albeit very partially, the fate of the war. Which, in light of the flop of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, appears even more serious.

The effective downsizing of Russian naval capabilities in the Black Sea – aggravated by the fact that for the moment it is almost impossible to replace these assets – postpones for at least a year the hypothesis of a Russian landing in Odessa, a move that would have deprived Kiev of access to the sea and would have given Moscow the chance to strangle the Ukrainian economy once and for all, causing the country to collapse and giving Putin his victory.

Instead, in these twenty-four months the Ukrainian forces have repeatedly repelled attempts to land in Odessa (mostly by Russian sabotage groups), and today – with the diminished maneuvering capacity of the Black Sea fleet – they can I will shelter from this hypothesis for a sufficient amount of time to reorganize the defenses even better.

Patrol boats, submarines, high-speed assault boats, landing craft and even the flagship Moscow they are no longer usable. Although some of these vessels were now “old iron”, their sinking demonstrates the permeability of the Russian Federation's defenses. Which in perspective represents a clear problem for the Kremlin, not only in terms of a victory over Kiev, but also in maintaining Russian prestige in the world.

Nonetheless, the strengthening of the Russian navy continues, and two nuclear submarines have just been launched from its shipyards, which will strengthen the Pacific fleet. Only time will tell if these efforts will be sufficient to bring the Russian fleet back to the glories it has become accustomed to. Meanwhile, to understand the state of the art of the Moscow flotilla, it is worth listing some of the major warships that Russia has lost in the last two years.

March 24, 2022: the Saratov

Commissioned in 1968, the Saratov is a large Alligator-class amphibious landing warship of the Black Sea Fleet. While the ship was docked in Berdiansk in the occupied Zaporizhzhia region, Ukrainian forces sank it with a short-range ballistic missile on March 24, 2022 .

April 14, 2022: Missile cruiser sunk Moscow

There Moscow, a guided missile cruiser, was the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, sunk on April 14, 2022. It was the first time a Russian flagship had been sunk since the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905. At the start of the invasion, Moskva had provided air cover to other warships and contributed to the capture of Snake Island in late February 2022. Ukraine said it hit the cruiser with missiles Neptune long-range launches from the ground.

June 17, 2022: Tugboat hit Vasily Bekh

The Spasatel Vasily Bekh, Russian rescue tug, joined the Black Sea Fleet in 2017, intended to provide rescue and emergency towing of ships, evacuate maritime crews, conduct diving and survey operations. The Russian tug was also used to transport ammunition, weapons and personnel to Snake Island. On June 17, 2022, Ukrainian forces declared they had struck and “successfully demilitarized” the Vasily Bekh with two missiles Harpoon. It was the first time Ukraine hit a Russian ship with Western-supplied anti-ship missiles.

August 4, 2023: The landing ship Olenegorskiy Gornyak

There Olenegorskiy Gornyak it is a large tank-class landing ship Ropucha, designed to quickly offload cargo and transport amphibious forces ashore. With a length of 360 feet, the class warships Ropucha they can land up to 10 tanks and carry up to 350 soldiers. On 4 August 2023 she was severely damaged after being hit by an explosive-armed Ukrainian marine drone – the first of many ships to fall to attack drones. Russia acknowledged the attack but said the Olenegorskiy Gornyak she was unharmed, although video footage of the attack suggests otherwise.

September 13, 2023: The large landing ship Minsk

Less than two months later, another class landing craft Ropucha is hit, while in dry dock for maintenance at the Sevmorzadov shipyard in occupied Crimea. “There Minsk it has almost certainly been functionally destroyed,” the British Ministry of Defense said. A month later, satellite images showed that the Minsk it was dismantled, probably to obtain spare parts.

September 13, 2023: Submarine damaged Rostov-on-Don

Simultaneously with Minskthe submarine is also hit Rostov-on-Don, of the Kilo 636.3 class «Suffered catastrophic damage», according to a British Defense intelligence report. The submarine then underwent repairs at the Sevmorzadov Shipyard. “Any effort to return the submarine to service will likely take many years,” Defense wrote.

November 4, 2023: Missile ships damaged Askold Tsyklon And Askold

The Russian Navy also lost one of its newest warships before it could join the Black Sea Fleet. Ukrainian forces targeted the Zaliv shipyard in occupied Crimea, causing significant damage to the corvette Askoldof the class Karakurt. Less than a week later, two more sister Russian ships were hit by Ukrainian marine drones, although it was not made clear which ones.

December 26, 2023: Landing ship hit Novocherkassk

Guided missiles also hit the class landing ship Ropuchathe Novocherkassknear the city of Feodosiya, in occupied Crimea.

January 31, 2024: the Ivanovets is sunk

In the latest series of attacks against the Black Sea Fleet, a Ukrainian special military unit sank a small warship, the Ivanovets, with six satellite-controlled naval drones powered by watercraft in a nighttime operation on 31 January. There Ivanovets it is a missile-class corvette Tarantul armed with supersonic anti-ship missiles and anti-aircraft missiles.