Vladimir Putin forced to withdraw ships from main Crimea port by Ukrainian attacks, say military experts

Vladimir Putin forced to withdraw ships from main Crimea port by Ukrainian attacks, say military experts

Vladimir Putin has been forced to withdraw ships from his Black Sea Fleet’s main Crimea port by Ukrainian attacks, military experts said on Sunday.

The drone and missile strikes have “changed Russian naval operating patterns,” according to the Institute for the Study of War, causing Putin’s Black Sea Fleet “to move some ships away from its main base in occupied Sevastopol”.

The Washington-based military think tank stressed that this had “hampered the BSF’s ability to interfere with maritime trade in the western part of the Black Sea”.

It added: “Ukrainian strikes have likely caused the BSF to set conditions for a more permanent basing pattern along the eastern Black Sea coast as it transfers naval assets away from Crimea and expands a small port in de facto Russian-controlled Ochamchire, Abkhazia.

“Ukrainian strikes against BSF assets have successfully facilitated the use of Ukraine’s Black Sea grain corridor as international support for the corridor continues to increase despite Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative and military threats against it.”

Putin’s navy has gradually been pushed back, with the flagship of his Black Sea fleet, the Moskva, being sunk in April last year.

Russia and Ukraine reportedly launched mass drone attacks at each other’s territories for a second straight day Sunday, one of which apparently targeted a Russian military airport.

At least 35 Ukrainian drones were shot down overnight over three regions in southwestern Russia, the Russian Defence Ministry said in a post on the messaging app Telegram.

A Russian air base hosting bomber aircraft used in the war in Ukraine was among the targets, according to a Russian Telegram channel critical of the Kremlin.

The channel posted short videos of drones flying over low-rise housing in what it said was the Russian town of Morozovsk, whose air base is home to Russia’s 559th Bomber Aviation Regiment.

Vasily Golubev, the governor of Russia’s Rostov province, separately reported “mass drone strikes” near Morozovsk and another town farther west, but didn’t mention the air base.

Golubev said most the drones were shot down and and there were no casualties.

As of Sunday evening, Kyiv didn’t formally acknowledge or claim responsibility for the drone attacks.

A major Ukrainian newspaper, Ukrainska Pravda, cited an anonymous source in the security services as saying that Ukraine’s army and intelligence services successfully struck the Morozovsk air base, inflicting “significant damage” to military equipment. It wasn’t immediately possible to verify this claim.

Ukraine’s air force also said it shot down 20 Iranian-made Shahed drones launched overnight by Russian troops in southern and western Ukraine, as well as one X-59 cruise missile launched from the country’s occupied south.

A civilian was killed overnight near Odesa, a key port on Ukraine’s southern Black Sea coast, after the remnants of a destroyed drone fell on his house, Ukraine’s military said.

Russian shelling on Sunday also killed an 81-year-old man in central Kherson, the southern Ukrainian city that was recaptured by Kyiv’s forces last autumn, according to the head of its municipal military administration.

Putin on Sunday dismissed claims by US President Joe Biden that Russia would attack a NATO country if it won the war in Ukraine, adding that Russia had no interest in fighting the NATO military alliance.

The war in Ukraine has triggered the deepest crisis in Moscow’s relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, and Biden warned last year that a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia would trigger World War Three.

In a plea to Republicans not to block further military aid earlier this month, Biden warned that if Putin was victorious over Ukraine then the Russian leader would not stop and would attack a NATO country.

“It is complete nonsense - and I think President Biden understands that,” Putin said in an interview published on Sunday by Rossiya state television.

“Russia has no reason, no interest - no geopolitical interest, neither economic, political nor military - to fight with NATO countries,” Putin said.

The US-led NATO alliance was founded in 1949 to provide Western security against the Soviet Union.

After the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, it was enlarged to include some former Soviet and Warsaw Pact countries.

Putin has repeatedly cast the post-Cold War expansion of NATO as evidence of the West’s arrogant way of dealing with Russia’s security concerns.

Under Article 5 of the NATO treaty, “the Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all”.

Putin said that Finland’s entry into NATO in April would force Russia to “concentrate certain military units” in northern Russia near their border.

The failure of Ukraine’s counteroffensive this year has raised questions in the West and inside Ukraine about just how realistic the Ukrainian and Western aims of defeating Russian forces in Ukraine are.

Officials in Moscow and the West have repeatedly spoken of a “new Cold War”, with Russia and China on one side and the West on the other.

A senior US State Department official said last month that Putin would not make peace before he knows the results of the November election in the United States.