In what could be a direct message to Ukraine and NATO, Russia staged a live fire “exercise” in the Black Sea just days after saying that cargo ships traveling to Ukrainian ports would be presumed to carry military weapons.
Russia’s defense ministry said a missile boat from its Black Sea Fleet “carried out live firing of anti-ship cruise missiles at the target ship in the combat training range in the northwestern part of the Black Sea. “The target ship was destroyed due to a missile strike,” it said.
It further stated, “Also, during the joint exercise, the ships and fleet aviation worked out actions to isolate the area temporarily closed to navigation and also carried out a set of measures to detain the offending ship.”
Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that the crew of the Ivanovets missile boat of the Black Sea Fleet worked out in the northwestern part of the Black Sea the destruction of a target vessel using anti-ship missiles, TASS News Agency reported.
“In accordance with the combat training plan for the forces of the Black Sea Fleet, the crew of the Ivanovets missile boat carried out combat firing with anti-ship cruise missiles at a target ship in a combat training range in the northwestern part of the Black Sea.
Ukrainian corvette Ternopil, which was captured by the Russians in 2014, was hit as a target by Russian Navy’s P-270 Moskit supersonic anti-ship cruise missile. pic.twitter.com/NRPYAzWu6D
— Clash Report (@clashreport) July 21, 2023
The missiles were aimed at the Corvette Ternopil, according to Ukrainian media reports. The Ternopil, once one of Ukraine’s most capable warships, was seized by Russia during the Crimea annexation in 2014.
During the joint exercise, the ships and fleet aviation practiced actions to isolate the area temporarily closed to navigation and also completed a set of measures to detain the intruder ship,” the report said. The Russian fleet had also rehearsed closing off areas temporarily ruled off limits to shipping and seizing vessels.
The ministry noted that telemetry data and video monitoring from drones confirmed the successful completion of the combat exercise. The target ship was destroyed as a result of a missile strike.
🚀Russia holds cruise missile drills in Black Sea after warning that ships delivering cargo to Ukraine are 'legitimate targets' since grain deal was scrapped.#Russian #Navy #Ukraine #BlackSea pic.twitter.com/hh8JB4i6Co
— 🌎War Zone Wire ⚔️ (@WarZoneWire) July 21, 2023
Furthermore, the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) said in a statement that warships and naval aviation “trained in isolating an area that was temporarily suspended for traffic” and “conducted measures to detain a [simulated] trespassing vessel.”
These drills are particularly of concern since the Russian MoD announced on July 20 in an official statement that all ships sailing in the Black Sea to Ukrainian ports will be considered potential carriers of military cargo, and the flag countries of these ships will be deemed to be involved in the conflict. Soon after, Ukraine warned Russia similarly, further infuriating the Kremlin.
The latest incident sharply escalated tensions in the region following Moscow’s withdrawal from the grain export agreement with Kyiv, followed by a massive missile strike on the Ukrainian port city of Odesa, using many air-launched and ship-launched cruise missiles.
Ukraine Is Ready To Fight In The Black Sea?
Retaliating to Russia’s threats, Ukraine soon issued a counter statement saying all ships making a port call at Russian-controlled ports in the Black Sea “may be considered by Ukraine as carrying military cargo with all the relevant risks.”
This further ignited a war of words between the two sides. In response to the threats from Kyiv, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on July 21 that the rhetoric was dangerous. “Unpredictable actions [by Kyiv] and the involvement of the Kyiv regime in terror attacks, no doubt, potentially pose a threat in this sphere,” Peskov said.
Ukraine, however, continues to imply that it was ready to fight the Russians in the Black Sea. “The fate of the cruiser Moskva proves that the defense forces of Ukraine have the necessary means to repel Russian aggression at sea,” Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense said, referencing the sinking of the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet last year.
Going over and beyond rhetoric, a Ukrainian interior ministry adviser, Anton Gerashchenko, took to Twitter to warn, “Ukrainian-made maritime drones are capable of destroying stationary and moving targets anywhere in the Black Sea.”
After Russia pulled out of the grain deal with Kyiv, which had been in place since last year, Russian forces launched massive missile attacks on the Ukrainian port cities of Odesa. An array of lethal missiles, including the ship-launched P-800 Oniks, believed to be nearly invincible, were used in the deadly overnight attack.
Odesa under missile attack yet again. Ukraine needs wide-range missiles to target russian missile-carriers in Black Sea! Help us, world!#StandWithUkraine
— olexander scherba🇺🇦 (@olex_scherba) July 21, 2023
Not just that, the United States has alleged that Russia has laid a large number of mines in the approaches to Ukrainian ports. A spokesperson for the national security council, Adam Hodge, said, “We believe that this is a coordinated effort to justify any attacks against civilian ships in the Black Sea and lay blame on Ukraine for these attacks.”
More than 16 months into the conflict, the Black Sea has once again become a dangerous warzone, weeks after intense fighting took place on land, especially in frontline regions like Bakhmut. However, despite Russian warnings, Ukraine is willing to fight as the counteroffensive progresses.
This has also become evident as Ukraine continues to push through in Crimea, where Russia’s Sevastopol port and the headquarter of its Black Sea fleet are based. Recently, Ukraine has been alleged to have attacked the strategic Russian Crimean Bridge, besides attempting to seaports.
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