Crimea: Satellite imagery indicates Russia moving navy ships to other ports after Sevastopol attacks
Satellite imagery indicates that Russia has been relocating some naval ships from the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in Crimea after a series of Ukrainian attacks, as Moscow meanwhile announced plans for a new base in a breakaway region of Georgia.
As many as a dozen ships, including frigates, landing ships and submarines now appear to be moored further east at Novorossiysk, imagery from the past few weeks showed.
CNN can confirm that some of the ships came from Sevastopol, the home port of Black Sea Fleet, but additional satellite imagery reviewed by CNN shows a number of military vessels remain in that port.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) commented that imagery from October 1 and 3 “reportedly shows that Russian forces recently moved the Admiral Makarov and Admiral Essen frigates, three diesel submarines, five landing ships, and several small missile ships” to Novorossiysk.
At least one other ship had been moved to the port of Feodosia in eastern Crimea.
The ISW noted that satellite imagery taken on October 2 shows four Russian landing ships and one Kilo-class submarine remaining in Sevastopol.
Ukraine has launched a number of missile attacks on Sevastopol, including a devastating strike against the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet and another that damaged at least two naval vessels in dry dock.
Dmytro Pletenchuk, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Navy, said Thursday that the Black Sea Fleet was “constantly dispersing its ships. They realize that these are our targets and are constantly moving them between several ports.”
“These are Feodosia, Novorossiysk and Sevastopol – to a lesser extent because this water area is less secure.”
He said some Russian ships were now appearing in the Sea of Azov. “We can see a slight change in the picture, but in general the situation is stable.”
Pletenchuk said Wednesday that Russian ships were “constantly changing their anchorage, [and] not present in large numbers in the Black Sea.
He said four ships were currently in the Black Sea.
He also noted Russian “defense and security efforts around the so-called Crimean Bridge have been reinforced again … Now we see 9 units there – 4 ships and 5 boats of the Border Guard Service, the FSB maritime guard. They are guarding this facility from the north and from the south.”
Even so, Pletenchuk said, “I would not write off the Black Sea Fleet. It is a rather serious grouping in which a lot of time and money. has been invested.”
“Now we see that the Russians have changed their tactics a little more and are dispersing their units as much as possible. Of course, they are afraid of being hit. Nevertheless, their aircraft continue to operate in our waters, which we have freed from the presence of warships.”
A Moscow-based institute, the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, said that the movement of ships was normal.
“The Black Sea Fleet once again made a traditional maneuver from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk – all three operational submarines of Project 06363, both frigates of Project 11356, one patrol ship of Project 1135M, five large landing ships, and, apparently, the bulk of small missile ships have moved to Novorossiysk.”
The Center said that “some other ships – one large landing ship, two small missile ships and both new minesweepers of Project 12700 – have moved from Sevastopol to Feodosia.”
Separately, the leader of the region of Abkhazia, a pro-Russian territory on the Black Sea that broke away from Georgia, says there will be a Russian military base on its coast.
Aslan Bzhania said that “We have signed an agreement, and in the near future there will be a permanent base for the Russian Navy in the Ochamchira region.”
“This is all aimed at increasing the level of defense capability of both Russia and Abkhazia, and this kind of interaction will continue, because it is ensuring the fundamental interests of both Abkhazia and Russia, and security comes first,” Bzhania said.
Georgia said such actions “represent a gross violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia,” according to Reuters.