Russia's Black Sea Fleet has moved its warships from annexed Crimea to southern Russia after a string of attacks on its headquarters, the independent news outlet The Bell reported Wednesday, citing satellite images shared by pro-war military bloggers.
The frigates Admiral Essen and Admiral Makarov, three submarines, five large landing ships and several small missile ships are now moored in the port of Novorossiysk in Russia’s Krasnodar region, the report states.
Admiral Makarov became the flagship of the Russian Navy's Black Sea Fleet after the sinking of the Moskva missile cruiser last year.
The satellite images, dated Oct. 1-2, show that a large landing ship, minesweepers and other small ships have been moved out of Sevastopol in southwestern Crimea to the port of Feodosia, which is located in the east of the peninsula.
Sevastopol came under two major Ukrainian missile attacks last month, with a Sept. 13 strike badly damaging a submarine and a large landing ship, as well as a Sept. 22 strike hitting the Black Sea Fleet headquarters.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said Monday that Russia’s Black Sea Fleet was “likely relocating to Novorossiysk in the face of threats to Sevastopol” while projecting force through the increased use of naval air power.
The Bell notes that Russian warships can still launch cruise missiles on targets within Ukrainian territory from their current ports.
But the relocation of ships likely means Moscow will be unable to disrupt future Ukrainian grain exports and casts further doubt on the fleet’s overall value, The Bell added.
“Most importantly, the Black Sea Fleet practically renounces its claims of control over the western Black Sea,” it said.
Ukraine is using asymmetric maritime warfare to degrade and “demilitarize” the Russian Navy, Ukraine’s ex-defense minister and current ministry adviser Andriy Zagorodnyuk told Newsweek in September.
The Kremlin has declined to comment on the reported ship movements from Sevastopol to Novorossiya, directing journalists' questions to the Defense Ministry.
Ukrainian and Russian attacks in and around the Black Sea have increased since Moscow this summer withdrew from an agreement that allowed safe passage to civilian cargo ships from Ukrainian ports.
Kyiv has vowed to take back Crimea since it was annexed by Russia in 2014.