Russia

Russian Black Sea Fleet 'hiding from a Ukrainian navy that doesn't exist'

Lieutenant General (retired) Ben Hodges says Russia's Black Sea Fleet is becoming "almost a non-factor" in the war with Ukraine.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet is "hiding" from a "Ukrainian navy that doesn't exist", a former Commander of US Army Forces in Europe has told Forces News.

Retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges said the Russian Black Sea Fleet is "hiding on the other side of Crimea" and "wants nothing to do with Ukrainian coastline", citing Ukraine's anti-ship missile capabilities as one of the reasons for this.

He told Forces News: "The Russian Black Sea Fleet is hiding on the other side of Crimea right now from a Ukrainian navy that doesn't exist.

"Ukraine has just a few coastal craft, they lost most of what they had back in 2014. Yet with their anti-ship missile capabilities and because of the resurgence of the Ukrainian Air Force, the Russian Navy wants nothing to do with Ukrainian coastline.

"So the Russian Black Sea Fleet, based in Sevastopol in Crimea, is hiding on the other side of Crimea."

Lt Gen Hodges said while Russian navy ships in the Black Sea can still fire cruise missiles, the fleet is becoming "almost a non-factor".

"They're not doing any sort of amphibious operations... I had expected that they'd use their naval infantry up and down the coast but they have completely failed to do that," he added.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet flagship was sunk in April. Ukraine said its forces sunk the Moskva with missiles but Russia did not mention any attack, only saying there had been a fire on board.

Crimea, annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014, is becoming an increasing focus of the conflict and last week Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said the war in Ukraine began with Crimea and must end with its liberation.

Watch: Examining the theories behind the explosions at Saky Airbase.

Fires burned and ammunition exploded at a depot in Crimea on Wednesday, a day after the latest suspected Ukrainian attack on a military site in the peninsula, and last week explosions were seen at one of Russia's biggest airbases in Crimea.

Ukraine claimed the blasts at Saky Airbase destroyed more than 20 Russian aircraft, although uncertainty remains over who carried out the attack.

Lt Gen Hodges said the attack was a "devastating hit".

On Tuesday, the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) said in its daily intelligence update on the war in Ukraine that Russia's Black Sea Fleet was continuing to hold an "extremely defensive posture".

It said patrols are "generally limited to waters within sight of the Crimean coast", at odds with typical Russian naval activity in other seas at this time of year.

"The Black Fleet's currently limited effectiveness undermines Russia's overall invasion strategy, in part because the amphibious threat to Odesa has now been largely neutralised.

"This means Ukraine can divert resources to press Russian ground forces elsewhere," the MOD said.