Putin scrambles to bolster Black Sea Fleet as regiment takes battering in Crimea explosion

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Russian Vice Admiral Viktor Sokolov announced today that Russia’s Black Sea fleet will be reinforced with new vessels and military vehicles. The reinforcements come after one of the fleet’s Crimea-based air regiments was decimated by a string of brutal blasts. Kremlin-owned news agency TASS quoted Mr Sokolov telling a group of young officers: “The Black Sea Fleet is participating in the special military operation, and is successfully completing all the tasks set for it.”

“The special military operation” is Russia’s way of describing its cruel invasion of Ukraine, claiming it is demilitarising and “denazifying” Ukraine.

Both Kyiv and Western governments say that is a pretext for an imperial-style war. The forces bolstering Russia’s fleet include 12 new vessels as well as additional aviation and land-based vehicles.

The attack on the Saky base in the west of Russian-ruled Crimea saw Putin’s forces lose eight Russian combat jets, according to the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD), and was also the last straw in the firing of Igor Osipov, the fleet’s previous commander. The MoD said that while the cause of the blasts is unclear, at least five fighter-bombers and three multi-role jets were “almost certainly destroyed or seriously damaged”.

The Ministry added that the loss represents only a minor dent in Russia’s overall aircraft fleet, but remains a significant setback to the Black Sea Fleet.

It said: “The fleet’s naval aviation capability is now significantly degraded”.

Kyiv did not directly claim responsibility for the attack.

However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address: “In just one day, the occupiers lost 10 combat aircraft – nine in Crimea and one more in the direction of Zaporizhzhia.”

Russia’s defence ministry said aviation munitions had been detonated at the base through negligence.

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The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said the targets “are well beyond the range of the US-provided systems”, as precision-guided rocket artillery used in Washington-supplied HIMARS systems has a range of 80-120km.

However, the think tank said “Ukrainian forces have various systems that they could have used or modified”.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian sources told the New York Times that partisans behind enemy lines had carried out the attack.

According to RIA, another Russia-owned news agency, Mr Sokolov has been newly appointed head of the Black Sea Fleet, replacing Mr Osipov.

Mr Osipov was fired by Putin after a series of setbacks, culminating in the attack on the Saky base. Such setbacks included the loss of the fleet’s flagship, the cruiser Moskva, which the Ukrainian Defence Ministry says was sunk in a missile strike, as well as the fleet’s withdrawal from the strategically significant Snake Island.

The axing of Mr Osipov represents one of the most significant military reshuffles since the war began.



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