Ukraine sea drones could hit Putin new boat squad to stop Dnipro crossings, say UK defence chiefs

Ukraine sea drones could hit Putin new boat squad to stop Dnipro crossings, say UK defence chiefs

Ukraine sea drones could hit a new boat squad set up as Vladimir Putin seeks to stop crossings to the Russian-held side of the vast Dnipro River, say UK defence chiefs.

They highlighted the creation of the “Dnipro River Flotilla” by Russian maritime chiefs.

It will aim to stop Ukrainian troops from crossing in greater numbers from the west side of the vast river in eastern Ukraine to the east which is controlled by Russia.

They previously established a bridgehead at Krynky which Putin’s military has sought to destroy, with both sides losing “large numbers of personnel and equipment” in fierce battles.

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has suffered a string of losses, with ships being sunk or damaged.

The British defence chiefs believe the flotilla will “decouple river patrolling functions” from the fleet which has been pushed back to the eastern Black Sea to avoid Ukrainian attacks.

In its latest intelligence update, the Ministry of Defence in London said: “On 20 March 2024, Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu announced the formation of the Dnipro River Flotilla and a boat brigade.

“This new formation will likely be responsible for securing the Dnipro waterways and islands that separate Russian and Ukrainian controlled Kherson.

“It is a realistic possibility the Dnipro Flotilla will be subordinate to the Dnipro Group of Forces, which combined the Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro Group of Forces in February 2024.”

The briefing added: “Russia likely wants to prevent and deny Ukrainian cross river operations, such as the operation to establish and maintain the Krynky bridgehead.

“Russian and Ukrainian forces have both lost large numbers of personnel and equipment in exchanges on Krynky.

“On 17 March 2024, Ukrainian forces in Krynky reported repelling the 810th Guards Russian Naval Infantry Brigade in the area.”

It also stressed: “It is likely this formation will decouple river patrolling functions from the Black Sea Fleet, whilst the Black Sea Fleet is operating further afield in the eastern Black Sea.

“The Dnipro Flotilla will likely be vulnerable to Ukranian uncrewed surface vehicles which have been effective in destroying Russian vessels operating in the Black Sea.”

In mid-February, Ukrainian forces successfully targeted, using a sea drone, the large Russian landing ship the Tsezar Kunikov off occupied Crimea in the Black Sea, having previously attacked a smaller naval corvette.

Just over a month later, in March, four ships including three landing vessels, the Konstantin Olshansky, Azov and Yamal, were damaged in an attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet base of Sevastopol, in Crimea, as was the Ivan Khurs reconnaissance vessel, a communications centre and other infrastructure , according to Ukrainian sources.

The flagship of the fleet, the Moskva, was sunk in spring 2022.

Ukraine’s air force chief said on Wednesday that Russia launched 13 Shahed drones at Ukraine overnight, 10 of which were downed in Kharkiv, Sumy and Kyiv regions.

“Anti-aircraft missile units, mobile fire groups, electronic warfare equipment ... were involved in repelling the air attack,” Mykola Oleshchuk stated.