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Russia’s Black Sea Fleet degraded but not defeated: ISW

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has been degraded but not defeated by recent Ukrainian strikes in annexed Crimea, a think tank has said.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a U.S.-based think tank, made the assessment in its latest analysis of the conflict in Ukraine on Sunday. Since June, Kyiv has conducted a campaign of strikes against Russian military infrastructure, headquarters, and logistics routes in Crimea. This is to degrade Moscow’s ability to use the Black Sea peninsula as a staging and rear area for Russian defensive operations in southern Ukraine, the ISW said.

Strikes in Crimea, which is Russia’s central logistics hub for its forces in southern Ukraine, have become routine in recent months amid Kyiv’s counteroffensive to reclaim territory occupied by Russian forces. Attacks have struck military targets in a push to weaken Moscow’s defenses and disrupt Russia from transporting equipment, weapons, and troops from mainland Russia into the peninsula.

Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s Black Sea Fleet has been targeted in a number of strikes. On September 22, Ukraine launched a missile attack on the fleet’s headquarters in Sevastopol, reportedly killing a number of top officers.

Nine days earlier, on September 13, a Ukrainian missile attack on the Sevastopol shipyard damaged a Russian submarine and cruise-missile carrier—the Rostov-on-Don—and a large vessel, the Minsk, as they underwent repairs.

“Strikes on Black Sea Fleet assets are degrading its role as a combined arms headquarters but have not defeated it as a naval force,” the ISW said.

“Ukrainian strikes generate outsized morale shocks among Russian commanders and in the Russian information space. Western provision of long-range missiles to Ukraine would amplify this ongoing, essential, and timely campaign to weaken Russia’s ability to defend southern Ukraine,” the think tank added.

Newsweek has contacted Russia’s Defense Ministry by email for comment.

Recent satellite images show that some of the largest ships of the Black Sea Fleet have repositioned from the port of Sevastopol in Crimea.

Russian frigates Admiral Essen and Admiral Makarov, three diesel submarines, five large landing ships, several small missile ships, one large landing craft, minesweepers and other small ships have been relocated from Sevastopol, the images show.

Last month, Andriy Zagorodnyuk, former Ukrainian defense minister and now an adviser to the ministry, told Newsweek that Russia’s surviving Black Sea vessels are old and outdated and therefore have issues.

“They were all built a long time ago. They have some significant issues with weapons, equipment, and so on,” Zagorodnyuk, said, adding that replacing destroyed or badly damaged vessels will take years, not months.

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