While Russia is unable to replace its sunken cruiser Moskva, it remains able to strike Ukrainian targets from the Black Sea, according to the British Ministry of Defense.
In its intelligence update Thursday, British defense officials said Russia has about 20 ships in the Black Sea, after the significant losses of the warships Moskva and the Saratov. And the Kremlin continues to be able to strike targets on Ukraine’s mainland from the sea, but it can't replace its sunken vessels while the Turkish-controlled strait is closed to most warship traffic.
The Turkish government closed the Bosporus Strait to non-Turkish warship traffic four days after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, the Washington Examiner reported.
The strait connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, which connects to the Aegean and Mediterranean seas.
“Despite the embarrassing losses" of at least two ships, Russia's Black Sea Fleet "retains the ability to strike Ukrainian and coastal targets," the British Ministry of Defense said.
Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, was sunk April 13 by two Neptune missiles in a strike that the Ukrainians say killed up to 250 Russian sailors. The Saratov landing ship was also reportedly destroyed by a Ukrainian missile strike in Berdyansk in March.
"Approximately 20 Russian Navy vessels are currently in the Black Sea operational zone, including submarines," the U.K.'s intelligence update said, noting that the "Bosporus Strait remains closed to all non-Turkish warships, rendering Russia unable to replace its lost cruiser Moskva in the Black Sea."
USNI News reported Wednesday that Russia is using trained dolphins to help protect its remaining ships stationed at a Black Sea naval base in Crimea.
According to Newsweek, NATO member Turkey, which controls access to the Black Sea, is enforcing the 1936 Montreux Convention, a little-known treaty that prevents Russia from sending its Black Sea fleet reinforcements during times of war.
British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said the U.K. will deliver hundreds of anti-ship supersonic Brimstone missiles to Ukraine to strengthen its navy in the "next few weeks."
Eight Russian ships have been lost since the conflict began, according to the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, but that claim can't be confirmed.
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