Strategic movement in the Black Sea continues with Russia reportedly loading cruise missiles onto a pair of submarines among its Black Sea fleet. This comes just days after a report that stated the U.S. was preparing to target the Russian fleet to free up paths for Ukraine to export grain.
Two Russian submarines have already moored at berths in the South Bay of Sevastopol to onload the Kalibr missiles, according to the Ukrainian media outlet Kyrm.Realii. Four of these “Caliber” types of missiles will be loaded upon two of the six Varshavyanka submarines, which are designed to fire these kind of missiles that have both land and sea capability strikes.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2017 said these missiles have the ability to strike a target from 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) from the underwater vessels.
On Tuesday, a Ukrainian defense minister said the Black Sea fleet of Russia was planning to use the submarine missiles for strikes on the Ukraine territory.
“Now the ship’s composition is used to strike with cruise missiles, this is a clear combat duty – two frigates, four small missile ships, two submarines, constantly on combat duty and constantly striking our territory using Caliber cruise missiles,” said Vadym Skibitsky, the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.
Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of grain. Russia has prevented the export of Ukrainian grain from the Black Sea and into the Mediterranean, where it can then have a global reach. This has already caused fears of a global food shortage that could lead to rising costs in some nations and starvation in others.
Last Friday, Ukrainian ministry of internal affairs adviser Anton Gerashchenko said the U.S. was getting ready to destroy Russia’s Black Sea fleet.
“The effective work of the Ukrainians on warships convinced (the USA) to prepare a plan to unblock the ports,” Gerashchenko tweeted. “Deliveries of powerful anti-ship weapons (Harpoon and Naval Strike Missile with a range of 250-300 km) are being discussed.”
Sevastopol is the largest city in the Crimea peninsula, which has been occupied by Russia since 2014. It’s also one of the major ports in the Black Sea—and where the cruise missiles are reportedly being onloaded—along with the port city Odesa in southern Ukraine, which is one of the most northern ports of the Black Sea.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, but failed to take the capital of Kyiv, getting pushed back by Ukrainian fighters. Ukraine fighters have also shown a staunch defense in northern cities like Kharkiv, where they have pushed Russian troops back toward the nearby border.
Russia, despite many losses in the war entering its 14th week, has shifted focus to eastern and southern Ukraine. That includes a strong presence in the Black Sea.
A spokesman from the U.S. State Department last week told Newsweek that American military has changed with the changing developments in the Black Sea, and so has the U.S. delivery of both security and assistance.
“As the conflict is changing, so too is our military assistance to deliver the critical capabilities Ukraine needs for today’s fight as Russia’s forces engage in a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine,” the spokesman said.
“We are the world’s leading provider of security assistance to Ukraine in its hour of need, and we are encouraging Allies and partners worldwide to do the same.”
However, another Ukrainian defense minister said the Russian fleet was locked and loaded if there was an outside threat to its mission.
“Two ships with a total volley of up to 16 ‘3M-54 Kalibr’ missiles are ready for use in the Black Sea,” said Oleksandr Motuzianyk, a spokesperson for the Ukraine defense ministry.
Reports estimate there are close to 20 Russian ships blocking Ukrainian ships from making export trips.