Ukrainian forces attacked Sevastapol, Crimea, Friday, damaging the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, the Kyiv Independent reported.
The spate of attacks is the most recent Ukrainian strikes on Crimea and Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Last week, a Ukrainian attack damaged a Russian ship and submarine. Russia, in turn, has been attacking Ukrainian assets on the Black Sea, most notably grain infrastructure in ports like Odesa.
On Sept. 13, Ukraine used British cruise missiles to attack Kilo submarine Rostov-on-Don and Russian warship Minsk, Politico reported. Days later, Ukraine posted a trolling video on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, poking fun at Russia for being able to take out a submarine despite having no warships.
“Looks like someone has lost a submarine in a land war,” the Ukraine Ministry of Defense posted with the video.
Looks like someone has lost a submarine in a land war. pic.twitter.com/XnV1A3AUwy
— Defense of Ukraine (@DefenceU) September 20, 2023
Despite the recent attacks on the Black Sea, the Russo-Ukrainian conflict has generally been fought over land and air. U.S. supplies to Ukraine have mostly focused on ground equipment and air ammunition. When asked about what the recent attacks on Crimea might mean, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder referred USNI News to Ukraine.
Russia will continue to try and dominate on the Black Sea, Lisa Aronsson, a research fellow at the National Defense University, said during a Sept. 13 Center for Strategic and International Studies discussion of the Black Sea.
“Ukrainians have been very successful with their coastal defense and anti-ship missiles but still Russia will continue, whatever happens in the land war, they will continue to try to dominate the Black Sea, if only to strangle the Ukrainian economic recovery or to try to prevent or challenge its integration into the Euro-Atlantic infrastructure or to undermine the alliance or EU unity as as a whole,” she said.
The Black Sea had mostly been quiet during the war after Ukraine attacked and sunk Black Sea Fleet flagship RTS Moskva in the early days of the war. After Moskva’s sinking, Russia drew most of the fleet into ports at Sevastopol and Novorossiysk. Over the almost two years war, Ukraine has used drones for a number of attacks on Sevastopol.
However, attacks on Ukrainian and Russian Black Sea assets increased since Russia withdrew from the U.N.-Turkey-brokered grain deal. In the aftermath of the withdrawal, Russia increased its attacks on Odesa, hitting grain infrastructure.
Russia has been building up its Black Sea Fleet since 2014 when it annexed Crimea, said Jeffrey Mankoff, a senior associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, during the CSIS discussion. Russian dominance of the sea meant it affected the ability of other countries to use the Black Sea for exports.
Ukraine still planned to use the Black Sea to export its grain after Russia withdrew from the grain deal. Russia said it would treat ships coming to collect Ukrainian foodstuffs as potentially carrying military cargo.
However, Ukraine’s latest problem with grain is countries that are no longer willing to accept its largest export. Poland, Hungary and Slovakia have all banned Ukrainian grain, the BBC reported. The bans come as Ukrainian grain has caused grain prices to rise among other countries. USNI News previously reported that other sources of grain arose to meet the potential challenges from the lack of Ukrainian grain.