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Satellite images have shown how Vladimir Putin is running scared from Ukraine’s assault on Crimea, revealing that the bulk of his Black Sea Fleet has performed a major retreat.

Russian warships were evacuated from Sevastopol some 237 miles to Novorossiysk on Russia’s southern coast, in what British Defence Minister James Heappey called ‘the functional defeat of the Black Sea Fleet’.

The exodus of around ten vessels came after Ukraine destroyed the Sevastopol headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet in a missile strike on September 22.

Nine days earlier Ukrainian missiles also hit the £250 million Kilo-class attack submarine Rostov-on-Don and large landing ship Minsk in a repair shipyard in naval port Sevastopol.

The Rostov-on-Don suffered massive damage and was likely beyond repair, analysts said. 

Russian Black Sea Fleet moved most of its ships from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk. Satellite image of Russian warships in Novorossiysk taken on October 1, 2023

Some Russian warships instead moved to Feodosia in Crimea as seen in this satellite image taken on October 2, 2023

Ukraine hits Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol on September 22, 2023. Smoke rises above the headquarters building moments after a missile hits the building

Conflict Intelligence Team shares pictures of major damage to Rostov-on-Don submarine after 13 September 2023 Storm Shadow attack on Sevastopol

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures during his meeting with children in the Sirius Education Center on October 4, 2023, in Sirius Federal Territory, Sochi, Russia

OSINT analyst MT Anderson highlighted satellite images dated October 1 which indicate the move.

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 analysis of the British Ministry of Defence this week that most of the forces of the Black Sea Fleet appear to have relocated from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk. 

The move of the fleet is seen as a tangible gain from Ukraine’s strategy of targeting Crimea – which Russia invaded in 2014 – with missiles and drones.

Ukrainian strikes have triggered explosions and fires in Novorossiysk, but Sevastopol has proved a much easier and more fruitful target.

Under agreements with Western nations, it cannot use Storm Shadow and HIMARS missiles to attack sovereign Russian territory.

Such missiles can be used against areas of Ukraine invaded by Putin, like Crimea.

But the move threatens Putin’s naval dominance in the Black Sea, and his ability to defend Crimea.

Carnage on Putin’s large landing warship Minsk, following 12 September 2023 Ukrainian missile attack on Sevastopol shipyard

13 September 2023 missile 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 strikes on Ukraine from the Black Sea – and will still have this capability despite the retreat.

But it will be harder to use Russian warships to prevent Ukraine 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, instead falsely laying blame on Ukraine for any attacks against civilian vessels in the Black Sea,’ said the Foreign Office.

‘By releasing our assessment of this intelligence, the UK seeks to expose Russia’s tactics to deter any such incident from occurring.’

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said ‘the world is watching’, warning of ‘Russia’s cynical attempts to lay blame on Ukraine for their attacks’.

Russia is maintaining some naval power in Crimea however – after the exodus, four large Project 775 landing ships and a Kilo-class submarine were still seen in Sevastopol. 

One large landing ship, minesweepers and small missile ships were also seen in a satellite image in Feodosia.

Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk

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