Satellite images have shown Vladimir Putin’s fears over the Ukrainian attack on Crimea, revealing that most of his Black Sea Fleet has carried out a major retreat.
Russian warships were evacuated from Sevastopol, some 387 miles to Novorossiysk on Russia’s southern coast, in what British Defense Secretary James Heappey called “the functional defeat of the Black Sea Fleet.”
The exodus of about 10 ships came after Ukraine destroyed the Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol with a rocket attack on September 22.
Nine days earlier, Ukrainian missiles also hit the £250 million Kilo-class attack submarine Rostov-on-Don and the large landing ship Minsk at a repair shipyard in the naval port of Sevastopol.
The Rostov-on-Don suffered extensive damage and was likely beyond repair, analysts said.
The Russian Black Sea Fleet moved most of its ships from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk. Satellite photo of Russian warships in Novorossiysk, taken on October 1, 2023
Russian warships were evacuated from Sevastopol, about 380 kilometers to Novorossiysk on Russia’s southern coast.
Satellite photo of Russian warships in Novorossiysk, taken on October 1, 2023
Some Russian warships have instead moved to Feodosia in Crimea, as seen in this satellite photo taken on October 2, 2023
Ukraine hits the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol on September 22, 2023. Smoke rises over the headquarters moments after a missile hits the building
Conflict Intelligence Team shares photos of extensive damage to submarine Rostov-on-Don after September 13, 2023 Storm Shadow attack on Sevastopol
Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures during his meeting with children at the Sirius Education Center on October 4, 2023 in Sirius Federal Territory, Sochi, Russia
OSINT analyst MT Anderson highlighted satellite images from October 1 that indicate this movement.
Two Russian Project 11356 frigates Admiral Essen and Admiral Makarov, three diesel submarines, five large landing ships and several small missile ships appeared to have been moved to Novorossiysk.
The images highlight the British Ministry of Defense analysis this week that most Black Sea Fleet forces appear to have been moved from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk.
The fleet move is seen as a tangible gain from Ukraine’s strategy to bomb Crimea, which Russia invaded in 2014, with missiles and drones.
Ukrainian attacks have caused explosions and fires in Novorossiysk, but Sevastopol has proven a much easier and more fertile target.
Under agreements with Western countries, the country cannot use the Storm Shadow and HIMARS missiles to attack sovereign Russian territory.
Such missiles could be used against areas of Ukraine invaded by Putin, such as Crimea.
But the move threatens Putin’s naval dominance in the Black Sea and his ability to defend Crimea.
Massacre on Putin’s large landing ship Minsk, following a September 12, 2023 Ukrainian missile attack on the Sevastopol shipyard
September 13, 2023 rocket attack on Sevastopol
Russian warship, project 11356 frigate Admiral Makarov
Sevastopol was claimed by Russia in 1783 under Catherine the Great.
Until 2014 it was a naval port shared by Russia and Ukraine.
Putin has used his warships and submarines to launch deadly missile attacks on Ukraine from the Black Sea – and will still have this capability despite the withdrawal.
But it will be more difficult to use Russian warships to prevent Ukraine from using its own grain corridor to export vital food supplies.
However, Britain has warned that Putin’s forces may lay mines in the sea, which they will then blame on Ukraine.
“Russia almost certainly wants to avoid openly sinking civilian ships, but instead falsely blames Ukraine for any attacks on civilian ships in the Black Sea,” the Foreign Ministry said.
“By releasing our assessment of this intelligence, Britain is seeking to expose Russia’s tactics to prevent such an incident.”
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said “the world is watching” and warned against “Russia’s cynical attempts to blame Ukraine for their attacks.”
However, Russia retains some naval power in Crimea – four large Project 775 landing ships and a Kilo-class submarine were still seen in Sevastopol after the exodus.
A large landing ship, minesweepers and small missile ships were also seen in a satellite image in Feodosia.