Using innovative attacks, Ukraine has eroded Russia’s formidable naval advantage, and it is starting to reopen ports. Commercial vessels have started using Ukraine’s main port of Odessa without asking permission from Russia for the first time since the war began, IPN reports, with reference to The Wall Street Journal and Meduza.
It’s a sign of just how much the balance of power has shifted in the Black Sea. “To ensure our security, now and in the future, we must start the defense of our shore on the shore of the enemy,’ the commander of the Ukrainian navy, Vice Adm. Oleksiy Neizhpapa, said in an interview with the WSJ. “This is an approach that we’re trying to implement little by little.”
The WSJ article pointed out that “with the grain deal dead, Ukraine’s military last month announced a unilateral corridor for civilian maritime traffic to and from Odessa. , including one of the two bulk carriers under the flag of Palau that arrived here to load up with grain last Saturday.”
When Russia launched hostilities at the end of February 2022, the Ukrainian navy was completely overwhelmed in force and completely lost its position in the Black Sea. Ukraine is said to have sunk its flagship in port to keep it from falling into the hands of Russian forces.
Russia deployed warships of the Black Sea Fleet so close to the Ukrainian coast that Odessa residents could see them with the naked eye. Russian warships continuously shelled the city, completely blocking all activities by sea, paralyzing the port of Odessa.
But to date, Russian warships no longer venture into the northwestern Black Sea region, due to the threat from Ukrainian missiles and mines. The Black Sea Fleet also suffered heavy losses after a series of long-range raids by Ukraine.
“There’s a really important shift,” said Michael Petersen, founding director of the Russia Maritime Studies Institute at the U.S. Naval War College. “The Ukrainians have gradually taken back the initiative, and this series of small tactical victories has begun to add up to operational and even strategic success,” he stated.
Russia, however, retains air superiority there, something that Neizhpapa said would end once Ukraine receives, as expected, F-16 fighter. “I can assure you that if F-16 fighters simply patrol the airspace above Odessa, there will be no Russian aircraft in the northwestern part of the Black Sea,” stated Oleksiy Neizhpapa.
Ukraine continues to trade through the maritime ports on the Danube, on the border with Romania - Ismail, Reni and Kilia - one of which is shelled by Russians at a distance of hundreds of meters from the Republic of Moldova, IPN reports.