Moscow has been forced to change tactics as British weapons have helped Ukraine push Russian ships 60 miles off shore.
By Joe Barnes, BRUSSELS CORRESPONDENT for The Telegraph - 8 June 2022
Ukraine has pushed the Russian naval fleet 100km back from the Black Sea coast with the help of Brimstone anti-ship missiles supplied by Britain.
Moscow has battled for dominance in the area, where its ships are carrying out a naval blockade on food exports, since its invasion of Ukraine.
But now the Kremlin has been forced to change its tactics in a desperate bid to maintain control over Ukraine's southern coastal line and the main shipping routes out of the war-torn country.
"As a result of our active actions aimed at defeating enemy naval forces, the group of ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet was pushed back from the Ukrainian shores at a distance of more than a hundred kilometres (62 miles),'' Ukraine's ministry of defence said on the Telegram messaging app.
As Russia's boats were pushed out of the north-western part of the Black Sea, the Kremlin's forces have turned to coastal missile systems to try and reassert control of the area.
They also dispatched additional forces to Russian-held Snake Island, the tiny rocky outpost some 30 miles off the coast of Ukraine, to strengthen air defences in the region.
In its daily update, the Institute for the Study of War, a US-based think-tank, said Ukraine's navy was challenging for dominance of the waters and prevented Russian ships from operating near the shoreline.
"Taken together, these reports suggest that Ukrainian naval pressure and anti-ship missiles - likely including those provided by the UK and other states - have forced the Russian grouping in the north-western Black Sea to rely more on coastal and air defence as they are pushed away from the Ukrainian shoreline," it said.
"Ukraine will likely attempt to leverage these successes to alleviate the economic pressure of the Russian blockade on Ukraine’s ports and seek additional economic support from the West, including possibly opening up new routes for international aid to Ukraine."
While Russia has maintained naval dominance, Kyiv has been able to effectively use anti-ship missiles to cripple some of Moscow's main ships.
Ukrainian forces employed a pair of Neptune missiles to sink the flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet, the Moskva, which had spent weeks pounding targets hundreds of miles away.
In a bid to help Kyiv end the blockade of its ports, Britain promised to send hundreds of Brimstone anti-ship missiles to bolster naval defences.
Despite the assistance, a Ukrainian official warned: "The threat of Russian missiles strikes from the sea remains."
The source added that Russian ships continue to "block civil navigation in the area", further raising concerns of a global food crisis, while grains exports from Ukraine are blocked.
Vladimir Putin has been repeatedly accused of weaponising food supplies in order to gain leverage over Western governments by driving up the price of grain.
Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defence minister, said on Tuesday that the Kremlin was using the captured Azov Sea ports of Mariupol and Berdynask to restart grain exports from Ukraine.
"The de-mining of Mariupol's port has been completed. It is functioning normally, and has received its first cargo ships," he said.
Kyiv has accused Russia of stealing grain supplies and using captured Ukrainian ports to export it to Africa and the Middle East..
Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, met his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, in Ankara on Tuesday Credit: RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY/AFP/Getty Images
Mr Shoigu also claimed Russian forces had opened a "land corridor" across southern and eastern Ukraine, linking mainland Russia with the illegally annexed Crimea.
He said 750 miles of railway tracks had been restored to move goods to Kremlin-controlled areas of Mariupol, Berdyansk and Kherson.
Meanwhile, Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, arrived in Turkey on Tuesday for talks on unblocking grain deliveries from Ukraine.
The row over a pending global food shortage sparked a Russian walkout of a meeting of the United Nations' Security Council, after Charles Michel, the European Council's president, blamed Moscow for the crisis.
Mr Michel accused Russia of using food supplies as a "stealth missile" by blocking ports and stealing grains from Ukraine.
Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian envoy, walked out of the meeting and later accused the top eurocrat of spreading lies.
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