A closer view of barriers at the entrance of the Novorossiysk port in Russia on March 30.

Satellite images show Russia has placed barriers at its ports to defend the Black Sea Fleet. The measures are designed to protect Russian warships from Ukraine’s uncrewed surface vessels.Kyiv has relied on this fleet of exploding drone boats to damage and destroy Moscow’s naval force.

Newly captured satellite imagery shows Russia has put up barriers at a major port to defend its Black Sea Fleet warships from Ukraine’s unrelenting exploding drone boat attacks.

The protective measures at Novorossiysk, a city in western Russia located along the Black Sea, appear to be building on similar efforts in Sevastopol, where Moscow’s naval assets have been targeted by Ukraine throughout the full-scale war.

“Due to an increased risk of Ukrainian strikes in their traditional homeport of Sevastopol, Novorossiysk now serves as a crucial role in sheltering the Black Sea Fleet’s most valuable assets,” Britain’s defense ministry wrote in a Sunday intelligence update.

The UK said it recently identified four barges placed at the entrance of the Novorossiysk port in a bid to “enhance the defenses” of the facility against attacks from Ukrainian uncrewed surface vessels, or USVs.

Ukraine, lacking a proper fleet of warships of its own for naval combat, has turned to a fleet of these USVs — essentially just drone boats packed with explosives — to damage and destroy Russian warships both in port and at sea since late 2022. It’s an asymmetrical style of warfare that Moscow has proven unable to consistently defend against.

Satellite images captured on March 30 by Maxar Technologies and obtained by Business Insider show what appear to be moored barges placed at the entrance to the Novorossiysk port. The barriers also appear in March 18 imagery shared by British intelligence, indicating they’re at least a few weeks old.

An overview of the Novorossiysk port in Russia on March 30.

A closer view of barriers at the entrance of the Novorossiysk port in Russia on March 30.

Brady Africk, an open-source-intelligence analyst at the American Enterprise Institute think tank, confirmed the placement of the barges and said the increased security at Novorossiysk is a relatively recent development, unlike Sevastopol, where defenses have been present throughout the war.

“Russia has placed moored barges and floating boom defenses at both Sevastopol and Novorossiysk ports,” he told BI, adding that Sevastopol is also guarded by netting and trained dolphins.

March 23 satellite images of the entrance to Sevastopol Bay show the floating boom defenses and netting in place.

Barriers at the entrance to Sevastopol Bay on March 23.

A closer view of barriers at the entrance to Sevastopol Bay on March 23.

“While these defenses may complicate Ukraine’s ability to strike Russian warships within Sevastopol or Novorossiysk ports” with its fleet of exploding USVs, Africk said Kyiv has “demonstrated the ability to locate and strike Russian ships outside of port or target them with missiles instead.”

On March 24, for instance, Kyiv confirmed it launched multiple missiles at Sevastopol during the previous night, hitting four Russian warships and various infrastructure belonging to the battered Black Sea Fleet.

Following that attack, a pro-Ukrainian partisan group known as Atesh said that Russia was putting up new barriers at the entrance to Sevastopol Bay and blocking the passage of ships, the Kyiv Independent reported on March 27. BI was unable to confirm these claims, which were made shortly after the March 23 satellite imagery was captured.

A series of four stills from footage shared by Defense Intelligence of Ukraine claiming to show the sinking of the corvette Ivanovets during an overnight attack on Jan. 31, 2024.

Despite Russia’s efforts to curb threats to the Black Sea Fleet, which includes barriers at ports, machine gun crews on warships, and aircraft patrols of the region, Ukraine has still managed to take out roughly a third of Moscow’s warships since the full-scale war began more than two years ago.

These losses recently led the Kremlin to reshuffle its naval leadership. Earlier this week, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu officially appointed Vice Adm. Sergei Pinchuk to the commander of the Black Sea Fleet — a move that British intelligence suggested was the result of Ukraine’s successful USV attacks in recent months.

As the new fleet commander, Pinchuk now has a daunting task ahead of him. The UK said last weekend that he “has likely sought to improve the survival chances of Russian vessels by adopting further preventative and defensive measures, including narrowing the entrance gap to port facilities.”

Whether these efforts — like the construction of barriers at Novorossiysk — are effective remains to be seen. Kyiv has vowed to continue going after the Black Sea Fleet, and its fleet of USVs have been upgraded over time to be more efficient and deadlier, a general in the Security Service of Ukraine previously remarked.

“Forcing the enemy to flee from the Black Sea was the goal we sought and it was achieved,” Brig. Gen. Ivan Lukashevych, whose team carries out USV operations, said in translated remarks shared with BI in February.

“If there is a threat,” the Ukrainian general added, “we will definitely find it, localize it, and destroy it.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

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