Russia’s Black Sea fleet has suffered severe setbacks as Ukrainian forces continue to cripple a major piece of Moscow’s war effort.
Last week, Ukrainian media touted a major victory over the Russian fleet with the publication of a video that allegedly showed the destruction of a nearly $70 million missile ship, the Ivanovets. Multiple drones hit the vessel and sank it, with the crew’s fate unknown.
“As a result of a number of direct hits to the hull, the Russian ship received damage that was incompatible with further movement – the Ivanovets tilted to the stern and sank,” said the Military Informant Telegram channel.
Ukraine has also whittled down the force with the destruction of a Russian submarine and a number of landing ships, such as the Minsk, the Saratov and the Olenegorsky Gornyak, according to Newsweek.
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Russia has lost around 25 of its approximately 80 vessels deployed at the start of the invasion of Ukraine and an additional 15 are under repair, Ukrainian Navy spokesman Dmytro Pletenchuk said during a television appearance this week.
The reported destruction of the Ivanovets caps off a months-long campaign during which Ukrainian forces have carved a new path through the Black Sea, ensuring the trade of vital grains after Russia refused to renew the U.N.-brokered deal that lasted for a year.
The deal, brokered in July 2022, helped ensure that the “breadbasket of Europe,” responsible for 30% of the global grain supply, would continue to ship vital grains despite a Russian blockade. Russia started attacking grain silos after ending the deal in 2023.
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Instead of folding, Ukraine hit back and struck major blows against the fleet, which had initially scored Russia’s strongest victories in the early stages of the invasion. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy proudly claimed at the end of the year that the fleet “is no longer capable of operating in the western part of the Black Sea and is gradually retreating from Crimea.”
“This is a historic achievement,” Zelenskyy said as he tried to raise spirits and support for the continued Ukrainian effort in the face of fatigue as the war lurches toward a third year with no clear end in sight.
British Secretary of State for Defense Grant Shapps in December wrote on social media platform X that Ukraine had destroyed 20% of Russia’s Black Sea fleet during its four-month campaign.
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“Russia’s dominance in the Black Sea is now challenged and the new U.K. & Norway-led Maritime Capability Coalition is helping to ensure Ukraine will win at sea,” Shapps wrote.
Moscow has moved some of its forces away from Crimea and over to its Novorossiysk base, which stands in Krasnodar, and farther along the coast.
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Russia reportedly plans to build a base in Abkhazia, a breakaway region of Georgia under Russian control, which would allow it to move its forces even farther from Ukraine’s reach.
“We have signed an agreement, and in the near future there will be a permanent base of the Russian Navy in the Ochamchira district,” Abkhazia’s President Aslan Bzhania, told Russian paper Izvestiya.
Reuters contributed to this report.