Russia Begins Hunt For ‘Lost Submarine’; Navy Says Will Patrol Black Sea Using Subs Amid Ukrainian Attacks

Dmytro Pletenchuk, spokesperson for the Southern Defense Forces and the Navy, announced on national television that Russia has begun using submarines to patrol the Black Sea. The move is in response to a series of successful Ukrainian attacks on Russian naval vessels.

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Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Ukraine has persistently targeted Russian ships. The Ukrainian military reported that around 30% of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet had been destroyed as of December 2023. This prompted a strategic shift in Russia’s naval operations in the region.

“They (Russia) have already established a practice where these submarines rotate in the morning. In the Azov-Black Sea region, they have four submarines, three of which are cruise missile carriers. Two submarines periodically go to sea,” stated Dmytro Pletenchuk, the spokesperson for the Southern Defense Forces and the Navy.

Pletenchuk also mentioned that Russian forces consider the Sea of Azov a safer area and are now trying to organize a training process for their ships there. To safeguard against Ukrainian drone attacks, Russia is constructing barge-like structures for protection.

According to Pletenchuk, the Sea of Azov currently hosts three Russian landing ships and three Buyan-M project small missile ships.

Pletenchuk noted that the shallow nature of the Sea of Azov limits Russian naval operations: “They (Russian vessels) mix with civilian vessels. They’re attempting to use it to complicate our work.”

The Ukrainian armed forces have significantly damaged the Russian Navy. Oryx, a Dutch open-source website known for its verified tallies of military equipment losses, reported that Russia lost 25 warships and one submarine in the ongoing conflict.

Among the notable losses is the Rostov-on-Don, one of Russia’s four missile-capable submarines, which Ukrainian forces reportedly crippled in Sevastopol in September 2023. In a recent attack on May 30, Ukrainian Magura V5 naval drones hit four Russian KS-701 Tunets (Tuna) patrol boats in Crimea.

Ukraine’s military intelligence reported that two of these boats were destroyed, and the other two were damaged. These setbacks have significantly impacted Russia’s naval dominance in the Black Sea.

Western experts note that Russia has transitioned from being the indisputable maritime power in the region to being restricted to the eastern portion of the Black Sea, struggling to maintain control over the area.

russian submarines
File Image: Russian Submarine

Russia To Search For Lost Submarine

Meanwhile, Russia has resumed its hunt for the L-19 submarine, which disappeared during the Soviet-Japanese war in 1945. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, a joint expedition of scientists is now exploring the waters of the La Pérouse Strait near the Sakhalin Region, where the crew last made contact.

The expedition—a collaboration between the Russian Geographical Society and the People of the Sea Foundation—is supported by the Fertoing Marine Engineering Company and the hydrographic service of the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet. Its mission is to locate the Soviet submarine L-19.

The search efforts are concentrated on the western side of the strait, where the crew of L-19 last communicated. The team is using the hydrographic boat Alexei Anashkin, which is equipped with specialized hydroacoustic equipment designed to detect and identify submerged objects.

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This search is part of a long-term effort to find the L-19. Several expeditions have taken place over the years. In July 2006, a Russian dive team named “Iskra” searched for the L-19 submarine. Unfortunately, their efforts were unsuccessful.

In 2023, the Fertoing team also conducted searches in the La Pérouse Strait, which included examining the American submarine Wahoo, sunk by Japanese air strikes in 1943. The team performed photogrammetry and created a three-dimensional model of the sunken vessel.

L-19 Soviet Submarine

The L-19 submarine, which joined the Pacific Fleet in 1939, embarked on its first and only combat mission in 1945 under the command of Captain 3rd Rank Anatoly Kononenko.

On August 22, the submarine positioned itself in Aniva Bay off the southern coast of Sakhalin Island. The crew reported sinking one enemy vessel and damaging another while crossing the La Pérouse Strait to the Otomari (Korsakov) area. Communication with the submarine ceased on August 24.

The submarine’s crew consisted of 62 members. The exact cause and location of their loss remain unknown. One theory suggests the submarine was destroyed by Japanese mines while crossing the strait. Another hypothesis is that the L-19 was attacked by an unidentified submarine or collided with a Japanese vessel in the fog.