Clashes on a strategic islet, a sunken Russian ship, attacks on gas platforms… The battle rages on in the Black Sea, off the coast of a Ukraine that is challenging Russian naval power.
Events accelerated in a few days, especially around the island of Serpents, according to observers and the protagonists of the conflict.
The situation “has clearly intensified with actions on both sides”, sums up a Western military expert, after four months of war in which Russia failed to impose its dominance on the sea.
This surge in activity is linked to kyiv’s use of Western weapons such as Harpoon anti-ship missiles, launched from the shore.
But it was another type of anti-ship missile, a Ukrainian Neptune, that sank the cruiser Moskva, the flagship of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea, in April.
The Kyiv Challenge
This coup by the Ukrainians was an insult to Russia. Since the beginning of the war, kyiv has managed to secure control of its coastline from the Romanian border west of Kherson (south) with ground batteries, drones and mines.
“We are in a new phase of the war, in which Ukraine has new Western weapons such as the Harpoon or Brimstone (surface-to-air missiles)”, explains HI Sutton, an independent analyst, to the AFP agency, for whom kyiv can begin to “challenge ” to a “less bold” Russian navy.
Several experts consulted by AFP and the British Ministry of Defense echoed the claim by Ukraine of the destruction last week of a Russian support ship near Snake Island with a Harpoon missile.
On Monday, kyiv forces attacked a gas facility, the fire of which was detected by a NASA website.
The action was carried out again with a Harpoon missile, which would be part of those sent to Ukraine by the Netherlands or Denmark, according to the Western military expert. In his opinion, those promised by the United States have not yet arrived.
On Tuesday, the Russians claimed to have destroyed a significant number of drones during an attack by their rival against the island of Serpents, as part of a landing project that they would have finally abandoned.
Satellite images consulted by experts show destruction. Other attacks have already been observed on this strategic islet, which the Russians seized from the Ukrainians at the beginning of the war.
A satellite image shows Snake Island, in the Black Sea, after an alleged Russian attack. Photo: AP
“There is evidence that the island was attacked, but not that the Ukrainians wanted to land,” says HI Sutton, for whom Ukraine can bombard it with its artillery, so “they do not need to try to land.”
Although the combatants and their allies document the war on the mainland through social networks, the naval battle takes place in relative silence.
The information comes mainly from satellite images, from what the belligerent countries want to declare or reveal the rest of the governments that monitor the area.
The Russians, for their part, are trying to hit the Ukrainian facilities on the coast with their missiles. “There was an attack on Odessa. Some hangars were hit, but there is no clear evidence of significant damage,” according to HI Sutton.
“The Ukrainian littoral defense capability largely neutralized the Russian ability to gain maritime control and project its forces into the northwestern Black Sea,” the British Ministry of Defense said.
For the independent specialist, Ukraine must dissuade a Russian landing, especially when Moscow’s intentions over the neighboring region of Transnistria in Moldova are not known.
Russia could seek to unite its territory with this separatist zone through the western coast of Ukraine.