The only entrance into the Black Sea remains off-limits to non-Turkish warships, preventing Russia from replacing its sunken cruiser, the British Ministry of Defense said on Thursday. However, Russia continues to have the firepower to strike targets in Ukraine from the Black Sea.
After the devastating losses of the Moskva and the Saratov, Russia now has approximately 20 ships in the Black Sea, the British Defense Ministry's Thursday intelligence update said. Russia continues to have capabilities to hit targets on Ukraine's mainland from the sea, but replacing its sunken ships is not possible with a key Turkish-controlled strait closed to most warship traffic.
"Approximately 20 Russian Navy vessels are currently in the Black Sea operational zone, including submarines," the United Kingdom'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."
The Bosporus was closed by the Turkish government to non-Turkish warship traffic four days after Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. The narrow passageway connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, which then connects to the Aegean and Mediterranean seas.
RUSSIAN-TRAINED DOLPHINS GUARDING BLACK SEA NAVAL BASE
The British Ministry of Defense noted that "despite the embarrassing losses" of at least two ships, Russia's Black Sea Fleet "retains the ability to strike Ukrainian and coastal targets."
Ukrainian officials claimed to have destroyed the Moskva, the flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet, with missiles earlier this month. In March, a reported Ukrainian missile strike at the Port in Berdyansk destroyed the Saratov landing ship and damaged others.
The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces claimed that in total, eight Russian ships have been lost in battle since the Kremlin's Feb. 24 decision to invade. The claim cannot be independently verified.
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It was reported on Wednesday that Russia is utilizing specially trained dolphins in the Black Sea to help guard some of its remaining ships stationed at a naval base in Crimea.