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Despite losing another warship to a country without much of a navy, Russia's Black Sea Fleet is still in the fight, Western intel says

Footage shows a Ukrainian drone boat attacking the Ivanovets, a Russian warship.
Footage appearing to show a Ukrainian drone boat attacking the Ivanovets, a Russian warship.Screengrab via the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine
  • Ukrainian forces last week said they used exploding drone boats to sink a Russian warship.

  • It marked the latest blow for Moscow's Black Sea Fleet, which Kyiv has beaten down.

  • But Western intelligence says the fleet can still perform its main duties in the Black Sea.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet has taken a beating from Ukraine over the course of the war, but Western intelligence suggests Moscow maintains the ability to conduct naval operations in the region.

Last week, Ukraine's military said its forces used uncrewed surface vessels packed with explosives to sink the Ivanovets, a Russian missile corvette that was stationed near the northwest of the occupied Crimean peninsula. It marked the latest Ukrainian naval drone attack on Moscow's assets in the region.

The Ivanovets had been tasked with patrolling Crimea's western coast in support of Russia's war efforts and facilitated targeting data with other ships, helicopters, and long-range patrol aircraft, Britain's defense ministry wrote in a Tuesday intelligence update.

"This latest Ukrainian success highlights the continuing vulnerability of Russian warships operating in the Black Sea," Britain's defense ministry said. "It will highly likely have an impact on the Black Sea Fleet's command and control elements, probably forcing them to re-evaluate their maneuverability near Western Crimea."

The latest attack, during which the ship was likely sunk, adds to Moscow's naval headaches. Past Ukrainian attacks in the region already forced it to relocate some of its Black Sea Fleet activities and assets from the headquarters in Sevastopol, along the southwestern corner of Crimea, to Novorossiysk, on Russia's western coast. Ships have been hit there as well.

A series of four reversed black-and-white stills from footage shared by Defense Intelligence of Ukraine claims to show, variously, naval drones' eye views of the Ivanovets, as well as views from a distance, during an overnight attack on January 31, 2024.
Stills from footage shared by the defense intelligence of Ukraine purporting to show the sinking of the corvette Ivanovets during an overnight attack at the end of January.Defense Intelligence of Ukraine

Britain's defense ministry, however, cautioned that "the Russian Navy is almost certainly still able to conduct its three main tasks in the Black Sea: long-range strike, patrol, and support."

The Ukrainian military doesn't really have much of a navy, but over the past few months, it has relied heavily on its arsenal of Western-provided long-range cruise missiles and homemade drone boats to damage Russia's Black Sea Fleet, including several vessels, and hammer Moscow's ground assets and facilities around Crimea.

Though there were earlier attacks, an uptick in Ukrainian attacks on the Black Sea Fleet began in the late summer after Moscow announced its intentions to militarize the important waterway and started increasing its strikes on Kyiv's ports and food-storage facilities.

In late December, the UK's defense secretary, Grant Shapps, said a fifth of the fleet had already been wiped out. Ukrainian officials said the same. And this situation appears to have gotten worse for the Russians since then.

Ukraine's defense ministry said Tuesday that it had destroyed or damaged 24 Russian vessels and one submarine since the full-scale invasion began nearly two years ago, amounting to a third of the warships belonging to Moscow's Black Sea Fleet.

"There is no place for the russian fleet in Ukrainian Crimea," it said.

Read the original article on Business Insider