Russia Loses Control of the Black Sea
Little by little, day by day, and week by week, Ukraine continues to reduce Russian naval power in the Black Sea. In the last four weeks, Ukraine staged a daring naval raid on Crimea to destroy air-defense equipment, destroyed two S-400 air-defense systems, took control of two oil rigs the Russians were using as surveillance outposts in the western Black Sea, and destroyed a submarine and a landing ship undergoing maintenance at the Sevastopol naval base, one of the most protected areas in all of Crimea.
But all that I have written above is information that was well-covered by international media. What escaped coverage was Ukraine’s relentless hunting of Russian patrol ships roaming around in the Black Sea. Ukraine has either sunk or damaged four Russian patrol ships in the last week.
On Sept. 14, three USVs (Uncrewed surface vessels or maritime drones) targeted and damaged Vasiliy Bykov, a 308-foot Project 22160-class vessel in the southwestern Black Sea, Samum, a 215-foot Project 1239 vessel in Sevastopol harbor, and Sergey Kotov, a 308-foot Project 22160-class vessel in the Black Sea. One day later, Ukrainian USVs damaged Askold, a 220-foot long Project 22800 patrol boat.
Two days, four patrol boats. Russia does not have an unlimited supply of these patrol vessels. Repairs take time, and the only dry dock they have in the Black Sea, the Sevastopol naval base, is damaged. Yes, believe it or not, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet was dependent on a single dry dock for its maintenance. That is some monumental planning by a country that wants to go borderless.
Russia depends on these patrol boats to control the Black Sea. In August this year, the now damaged Russian patrol ship, Vasily Bykov, stopped the cargo ship Sukru Okan, sailing under the Palauan flag.
On August 13, a warship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet executed a board-and-search operation of a Turkish freighter that was passing through Bulgaria’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) en route to Ukraine to load grain. The Russian crew fired warning shots from automatic weapons to intimidate the Turkish vessel into compliance.
The Russian warship cited a purported right to “search for prohibited…