"Coastal Defense Flotilla": Russian Black Sea Fleet suffered in 200 days of the Ukrainian war

“Coastal Defense Flotilla”: Russian Black Sea Fleet suffered in 200 days of the Ukrainian war

Days after Russia launched its invasion of neighboring Ukraine, Russian conscript sailor Mark Tarasov wrote to his mother in St. Petersburg from the Black Sea Fleet’s flagship Moskva.

“I’m fine. I’m alive. We’re doing well. I really don’t know what’s going on in the world right now, just in general terms,” ​​he said. wroteaccording to a photo posted by his mother on the social network VKontakte.

“I can’t wait to get back [home]There are still nine months left.

Less than two months later, a pair of Ukrainian anti-ship missiles hit the Moskva in the sea off Odessa, causing a major fire. As a result, the ship sank.

The sinking of Moskva, the pride of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, was the first in a series of symbolic setbacks suffered by the fleet in the 200 days since Moscow sent troops into its pro-Western neighbor.

Defeats at sea and on land significantly reduced the offensive capabilities of the fleet and, according to reports, led to the removal of its commander.

One Western official is reported said last month that, as a result of losses, the Black Sea Fleet became nothing more than a “coastal defense flotilla.”

According to Oryx, an intelligence blog that tracks Russian military casualties, the loss of men and equipment to the Ukrainian attacks, including at least 10 warships, has been especially notable.

“With the loss of Moskva, hundreds of marines and a number of other ships, the fleet probably no longer has the combat power to completely cut off Ukraine from the Black Sea,” said independent military analyst Pavel Luzin.

Mark Tarasov and his mother Ulyana.
Ulyana Tarasova / vk.com

A Ukrainian missile sank the amphibious assault ship Saratov in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian port city of Berdyansk in March, and since then Ukraine has damaged or destroyed five patrol boats, according to Oryx.

The rescue tug “Vasily Bekh” sank in June while delivering weapons and personnel to Snake Island, a strategic outpost that was later abandoned Russian troops.

Perhaps most symbolically, the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol was attacked not once, but twice.

Explicit Drone strike at the end of July, they resulted in six casualties and the cancellation of the planned Navy Day celebrations. Three weeks later another drone hit the same building, raising columns of black smoke into the sky.

In addition to the loss of ships of the Navy, the Black Sea Fleet also destroyed other military equipment and a high level of loss of personnel.

More than half of the Black Sea Fleet’s warplanes were put out of action last month when a series of explosions hit the Saki airbase in Crimea. grade according to an unnamed Western official quoted by Reuters.

Saki air base in Crimea after the Ukrainian attack.  Maxar Technologies / AFP

Saki air base in Crimea after the Ukrainian attack.
Maxar Technologies / AFP

The specialized 810th Marine Guards Brigade of the Black Sea Fleet reportedly suffered hundreds of casualties while fighting with Russian troops attacking the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

As of July, the brigade has lost more than 66 people, according news agency Crimea Realii, an affiliate of the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, while Ukrainian intelligence argued last month the figure approached 300. The brigade’s commander, Colonel Alexei Sharov, was reportedly among the dead. killed March 22 in Mariupol.

The Black Sea Fleet, intended to demonstrate Russian naval power over the former Soviet countries and the eastern Mediterranean, has been brutally exposed since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February.

Analysts say one reason for the fleet’s poor performance was that many of its ships and systems needed to be upgraded.

Although the pre-war Black Sea Fleet was smaller than the Russian Baltic or Pacific Fleet, it consisted of about 50 ships, about 4,000 marines, and a small air wing.

Growing losses in manpower and materiel are likely the reason behind Moscow’s recent decision to shake up military command of the fleet, experts say.

Igor Osipov was removed from the post of commander of the Black Sea Fleet and replaced Vice Admiral Viktor Sokolov last month, state media reported. Although the fleet initially denied these reports, Sokolov, who was deputy commander of Russia’s Northern Fleet from 2013 to 2020, later confirmed his appointment.

“Poor preparation, apparent negligence and overall lackadaisical attitude by the Black Sea Fleet likely led” to Osipov’s dismissal, Michael Kofman, director of the Russia Studies Program at the CNA think tank in Virginia, said Politics last month.

Russian cruiser

The Russian cruiser “Moskva” after being shelled by Ukrainian missiles.
@ua_industrial / twitter

While Sokolov may offer a new approach, his options are limited because Russia has no way to reinforce its navy after Turkey closed the Bosporus and Dardanelles to Russian warships in March.

“The problem is that not all of the ships of the Black Sea Fleet are there,” naval analyst Ben Clairmont told The Moscow Times, adding that the key flaw was the Admiral Grigorovich, a modern frigate launched in 2014.

Russia is particularly scattered in terms of modern air defense capabilities in the area, analysts say. reports Ukrainian drones over the Crimean peninsula.

Due to downsizing and difficulty replenishing, the Black Sea Fleet is left with few important functions other than blockading Ukrainian ports and continuing to launch cruise missiles many tens of miles from the Ukrainian coast.

Many of the almost 4000 The missiles fired at Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion were Kalibr ship-launched missiles fired from Russian frigates and submarines in the Black Sea.

Sailors from the Black Sea Fleet and their relatives declined to comment on the hardships of one of Russia’s most prestigious naval units when contacted by The Moscow Times.

“My commander will not allow this,” one sailor said in response to the message.

But the loss of the Moskva flagship and the fate of its crew, which Moscow initially announced, were completely evacuated before its flooding remains a particularly sensitive topic.

Smoke over the metallurgical plant

Smoke over the metallurgical plant “Azovstal” during the fighting in Mariupol.
Sergei Bobylev / TASS

Russian Defense Ministry later said one crew member was killed and 27 were missing, but the families of at least five sailors on the ship were reported received death notices.

Among the confirmed dead is chef Yegor Shkrebets, whose family is finally received official death certificate 110 days after the sinking.

“I have a lot of questions when it comes to the rescue operation. I doubt it was done the way it should have been,” Shkrebts’ father told The Moscow Times.

Uliana Tarasova, whose son Mark Tarasov was on board the Moskva when she crashed, has not responded to messages from The Moscow Times, but social media reports suggest she is still waiting for confirmation of what happened to her child.

In April, Tarasova expressed her anger at the seemingly controversial nature of Moscow’s military slogan: “We don’t give up on our own.”

“We won’t give up ourselves” definitely does not apply to the Black Sea Fleet, ”the grieving mother published in VKontakte.

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