The war in the Ukraine is mainly being fought on land, after all the attacked country is trying to drive the Russian invaders out of the territories occupied in violation of international law. But in recent days, the Black Sea and the adjacent Sea of Azov have increasingly become the focus of hostilities.
For example, in the Kerch Strait, which lies between the Azov and Black Seas, the Russian tanker SIG was attacked by Ukrainian drones. The tanker was damaged in the attack in the straits off the Crimean peninsula. Traffic on the strategically important bridge across the strait, which connects Moscow-annexed Crimea with Russia, came to a standstill for around three hours.
Battle in the Black Sea
Only on Friday did Ukraine claim to have carried out a drone attack on a Russian naval ship at the Black Sea base in Novorossiysk south of Kerch. Russia said it repelled an attempt by Ukrainian forces to attack the base “with the help of two unmanned boats.”
Attacks from both sides in the region have escalated since Moscow last month pulled out of the grain deal that allowed Ukrainian grain exports across the Black Sea. Moscow then warned that the passage was no longer safe. A very threatening situation for Ukraine, which depends on income from grain exports across the Black Sea. So now Ukraine is obviously trying to turn the tables and, so to speak, beat the Russians at their own game.
What is clear is that the successful attack on the tanker SIG, which apparently had fuel for the troops on board, is a serious blow to the Russians, both militarily and economically. In their latest analysis, the experts at the renowned American “Institute for the Study of War” (ISW) assume that the attack was probably part of a broader plan “to disable ships involved in supplying the Russian armed forces and the location of the attack near the bridge suggests it was part of a broader plan to disrupt Russian logistics along a key Russian ground communications line.”
Ukrainian attacks with drones
It is particularly interesting that these drones can apparently be controlled very precisely. The ISW reports, citing a Russian military blogger, that the Ukrainian naval drone specifically targeted the engine room of the SIG because that is where the probability of an oil spill is lowest and because that is where the most expensive and most difficult-to-repair equipment is located.
The ISW sees the Ukrainian attacks as a likely “part of a targeted disruption campaign to create favorable conditions for larger counter-operations”. The message that Kiev apparently wants to send to Moscow: the Black Sea is no longer safe, we can attack you anywhere.
Accordingly, Ukraine also warned that from August 23 all Russian Black Sea ports and the shipping lines there should be considered “war risk areas”, reports “Welt”. This is the economic aspect of the fighting in the Black Sea: the waters are not only important for Ukraine but also a main route for Russian oil exports. If fewer captains now dare the passage, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will quickly feel it in his war chest.
Kiev is said to have its own production facilities for autonomous watercraft. The US television channel CNN recently showed remote-controlled motor boats that can deliver 300 kilograms of explosives to targets 800 kilometers away at up to 80 kilometers per hour on the water. “The speed of these drones currently surpasses any other watercraft in the Black Sea region,” the developer told CNN.
Tactics of pinpricks also on land
But Kiev’s pinprick tactics can also be seen elsewhere. Because Ukraine has already repeatedly attacked targets in Moscow with drones. Following the recent attack on a 50-story glass tower in Moscow, former anti-aircraft defense officer and military expert Yuri Knutov told the Moscow tabloid MK that this was not the first and will not be the last such attack. Kiev is now taking revenge for the recent Russian attacks on the port infrastructure in Odessa and other regions.
Above all, however, the power apparatus in Moscow is now wondering how Ukraine was able to pull off these and other blows in the country. “These are pinpricks with a psychological effect,” says a former officer who does not want to be named, the “MK”. He explains that many Ukrainians who were trained in Soviet times are very knowledgeable about protecting Russian airspace.