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Russia is unlikely to attack the Ukrainian coast, which is out of its control, from the sea, according to Western observers. Kiev has seen its navy destroyed, but threatens the horizon with its coastal batteries, Fabien Zamora noted in an article for La Libre.
For the Russians, the Black Sea, since the beginning of the war, “is theirs,” notes Captain Eric Lavault, a spokesman for the French Navy. And this, even if all the other coastal countries are NATO members or aspire to be, according to lalibre.be.
A sea over which they rule with about twenty ships, according to British information, and whose exit straits, the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, have been sealed since late February by Turkey under the 1936 Montreux Convention.
Another advantage for the Russians: the recent capture of the port of Mariupol and the total conquest of the northeastern coast of the Azov Sea allows them to supply “with a very direct supply chain” the Donbas combat units in the eastern port of Novorosisk, Mr. Lavault notes.
However, claiming that it hit the Russian cruiser “Moskva” on April 13 and then announced on Monday the destruction of two Russian patrol boats near Snake Island, Kiev managed to create an area of uncertainty near what remaining on its shores, between Odessa and Romania.
Ukraine, whose fleet has been annihilated, has coastal anti-ship missile batteries, such as the “Neptune” and probably the “Harpoon” donated by Britain.
Thus, “This area poses a threat that the Russians must consider,” said Igor Delanoe, deputy director of the Franco-Russian Observatory and a specialist in the Russian navy.
This could prevent Moscow from launching an amphibious operation in the Odessa area. Such an operation would make it possible to enclave Ukraine and make connections with its elements in Moldova’s separatist Transnistria, as a Russian general mentioned earlier this week.
But in the near future, this hypothesis “seems inaccessible. We need to see how things are going in Donbas, “Delanoe said. And, above all, “coastal batteries will have to be neutralized if they decide to engage in this option.”
“We don’t know exactly how many ‘Neptune’ batteries Ukrainians have,” said Michael Petersen, director of the Russian Navy’s Institute for Naval Studies at the US Naval War College.
In addition, the Russians “have no control over the sky and are not accurate in their missile strikes,” which limits their ability to neutralize these batteries, notes Eric Lavault.
Since the start of the war, “Russia has had great difficulty finding and destroying mobile surface-to-air missile batteries,” says Petersen, and “I think it will be the same for mobile coastal defense batteries,” which are often moved. .
“Most of these missiles have a range of about 300 kilometers,” recalls Mr. Petersen. Ukraine has created a “maritime sanitation cordon”, illustrates Eric Lavault, who also makes it possible to threaten the “supply at sea” of Russian troops engaged on the “southern flank” between Kherson and Nikolaev.
A cordon strengthened by me – some of which has begun to drift – and which will be further strengthened by the surface sea drones promised by the United States, “intended to help Ukraine defend the coast,” according to the Pentagon, which refuses to say. if they have weapons on board.
“Most likely, they will be used for surveillance and reconnaissance of coastal weapon systems,” said Petersen.
“The Russians must not be able to control the Black Sea. It doesn’t depend on them anymore, “British Defense Minister Ben Wallace told Sky News last Thursday, denouncing, among other things, the effects of the blockade on grain trade flows.
The Ukrainian military also owns the Turkish fighting drone Bayraktar – which was used on Monday during the destruction of two Russian patrol boats near Snake Island.
Historically, the Black Sea, formerly known as the Pont-Euxin, has always been vital to Russia, which “must finally escape its closed chamber (…), to fill its lungs with the open air of the seas,” Dostoevsky wrote. in 1877.
Whatever the outcome of the war, Russia will struggle to maintain control, and the Black Sea is expected to remain a hotbed of tensions affecting global economic flows.
thus, “Merchant ships will return, will go to Mariupol, will go to Odessa, which we hope will remain Ukrainian, will go to Romanian and Bulgarian ports… But seabed exploitation, fishing, in conquered maritime areas, could be Russian” , anticipates Eric Lavault.
At the strategic level, “many coastal states are learning the lessons of war, the importance of coastal batteries, Romania, the Turks in particular,” Mr. Petersen said.
If everyone equips themselves with such equipment, “the naval balance will oscillate towards these other countries”, the American expert anticipates, and even if Russia maintains its hegemony, “it will certainly feel less comfortable”.