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A new commander is taking over Russia's Black Sea Fleet after the last one let its warships get torn apart by exploding drones

In this photo released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Friday, July 21,2023, warships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet sail while taking part in naval drills in the Black Sea.
In this photo released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on July 21,2023, warships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet sail while taking part in naval drills.Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP
  • Russia officially replaced the commander of its Black Sea Fleet on Tuesday.

  • Vice Adm. Sergei Pinchuk is stepping into the role with a challenging task ahead of him.

  • Western intelligence said the former commander was removed following successful Ukrainian attacks.

Russia has officially replaced the commander of the Black Sea Fleet, awarding Vice Adm. Sergei Pinchuk the daunting role of overseeing naval operations in a region that has long troubled Moscow.

The command change is part of a larger reshuffling of Russia's naval leadership and comes as Moscow struggles to consistently stop Ukrainian missiles and exploding drone boats from relentless attacks on its warships in the Black Sea.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced a presidential decree appointing Pinchuk to commander of the Black Sea Fleet during a Tuesday teleconference with military leadership, according to a statement published by Moscow's defense ministry to the Telegram messaging platform.

Pinchuk is a career navy officer who previously served as the deputy to Adm. Viktor Sokolov, the former Black Sea Fleet commander.

In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, April 2, 2024, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu leads a meeting with the leadership of the Armed Forces at the National Defense Control Center in Moscow, Russia.
In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, April 2, 2024, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu leads a meeting with the leadership of the Armed Forces at the National Defense Control Center in Moscow, Russia.Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

Russian war bloggers first reported in mid-February that the Kremlin was sacking Sokolov and replacing him with Pinchuk, although Moscow did not appear to make the official announcement until this week.

In a Sunday intelligence update, two days before Russia's official decree, Britain's defense ministry said Sokolov was replaced "following Ukrainian successes" in using unmanned surface vehicles, or USVs, to damage and destroy Russian warships both in port and at sea.

Because Ukraine lacks a proper navy of its own, it has relied on these systems to wage asymmetrical warfare against the Black Sea Fleet. Russia has taken some defensive measures to protect its warships, but the navy has ultimately been unable to consistently defend against the USV threat.

Shoigu has signaled concern about this serious threat, and Pinchuk, Britain's defense ministry said, "has likely sought to improve the survival chances of Russian vessels by adopting further preventative and defensive measures, including narrowing the entrance gap to port facilities."

The recent intelligence update included recent satellite imagery of the port at Novorossiysk, on Russia's western coast, where some of the Black Sea Fleet has relocated to get away from its vulnerable headquarters at Sevastopol, a port city in the occupied Crimean peninsula.

The imagery shows that Russia has placed barges at the entrance of the Novorossiysk port in a bid to defend against Ukrainian USV attacks.

Russian Black Sea fleet
Russia's Black Sea Fleet warships take part in the Navy Day celebrations in the port city of Novorossiysk on July 30, 2023.STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images

This appears to be the first example of the new commander making efforts toward his suspected goals of protecting the fleet.

It remains to be seen, however, if such measures will actually be enough to stop the Ukrainian attacks. Beyond its USV force, Kyiv has also used missiles to inflict damage on the Black Sea Fleet. Russia has lost roughly a third of its warships since the full-scale war started more than two years ago.

Tuesday's presidential decree, meanwhile, also promoted Adm. Aleksandr Moiseyev — once himself the Black Sea Fleet commander — to oversee the entire Russian navy and Vice Adm. Konstantin Kabantsov to command its Northern Fleet.

"Colleagues, congratulations! You realize the enormous responsibility that rests on you," Shoigu said during the teleconference, according to the Russian defense ministry's statement.

"I hope that you will cope with the tasks set by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and, of course, the country," he added.

Read the original article on Business Insider