Russian Military Ships Leave Occupied Crimea for Safety Reasons
Russia has withdrawn most of its Black Sea Fleet from Sevastopol, the main base in occupied Crimea, which is seen as a clear indication that Ukraine's missile strikes and drone attacks are challenging Moscow's control over the peninsula.
This development, reported by The Wall Street Journal, includes the relocation of powerful vessels, including three attack submarines and two frigates, from Sevastopol to other ports in Russia and Crimea offering better protection, as confirmed by Western officials and verified by satellite imagery reviewed by military experts.
This move represents a significant setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose military seizure of Crimea in 2014 marked his first attempt to gain control over Ukraine. Last year's full-scale invasion backfired, forcing Russia to withdraw its ships from a port it had claimed since 1783, during the reign of Catherine the Great.
Now, Russia intends to establish a base for its fleet in the occupied Georgian region of Abkhazia, as announced by the self-proclaimed president of the unrecognized republic, Aslan Bzhania, as reported by Reuters.
The withdrawal of vessels from Sevastopol follows a series of Ukrainian strikes in recent weeks that inflicted significant damage on Russian military ships and the fleet's headquarters, and breached the blockade of Ukrainian ports by the Russian fleet. This opened a new corridor for the export of economically vital cargoes, including grain.
James Heappey, the UK's Minister for the Armed Forces, referred to the dispersal of ships as a "functional failure" for the Russian Black Sea Fleet during a conference in Warsaw this week.
Satellite images from October 1, provided by Planet Labs, showed that the bulk of the ships had been moved to Novorossiysk, a Russian port on the Black Sea. The fleet included all three "Kilo-class" attack submarines, two frigates armed with guided missiles, and one patrol ship. Other vessels, including a large landing ship, several small missile boats, and new minesweepers, were relocated to Feodosiya port, further east along the Crimean Peninsula.
While this move may be a temporary measure to protect against further Ukrainian attacks, the logistical challenges associated with the redeployment of some of Russia's heaviest ships underscore the threat to Kyiv's offensive capabilities.