The threat from Vladimir Putin’s naval forces to the port of Odesa has been “largely neutralised” as his Black Sea fleet’s “limited effectiveness” undermines Russia's invasion of Ukraine, British defence chiefs said on Tuesday.
Moscow’s naval fleet is struggling to exercise effective sea control outside the key southern port known as the gateway to Ukraine, the Ministry of Defence said.
In its latest intelligence update on the six-month war, UK officials said Russian maritime patrols are "generally limited to the waters within sight of the Crimean coast".
The Russian fleet's flagship missile cruiser, the Moskva, was sunk by Ukrainian forces in April and, since then, it has also lost a significant portion of its naval aviation combat jets and control of the strategically important Snake Island, the MoD said.
It said Russian sea troops are using long-range cruise missiles to support ground offensives but are pursuing an “extremely defensive posture”.
"The Black Fleet’s currently limited effectiveness undermines Russia’s overall invasion strategy, in part because the amphibious threat to Odesa has now been largely neutralised," the MoD said.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 16 August 2022
Find out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/jrmLUD5Osz
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"This means Ukraine can divert resources to press Russian ground forces elsewhere."
Meanwhile a fire broke out on Tuesday at an ammunition storage site operated by Russia on Crimea, leaving two people injured, according to local officials.
The blaze and explosions rattled the village of Mayskoye in the Dzhankoi district of Crimea, Russian media reported.
“As a result of the fire, the stored ammunition detonated,” Russia’s defence ministry said, adding that it was not immediately clear what caused the fire.
Ukrainian authorities had yet to comment on the incident.
It comes just a week after a series of explosions at an air base on the peninsula that was annexed from Ukraine by Russia.
The Russian military blamed the blasts on an accidental detonation of munitions there, but satellite images pointed to a Ukrainian attack. Kyiv said the explosions destroyed nine Russian airplanes.
* The first cargo of humanitarian food aid bound for Africa from Ukraine since Russia’s invasion left port on Tuesday. The Brave Commander departed the port of Pivdennyi, with 23,000 tonnes of wheat aboard, on its way to Djibouti with supplies destined for consumers in Ethiopia, Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry said.
Ukraine’s grain exports have slumped since the start of the war because of the closure of its Black Sea ports, driving up global food prices and sparking fears of shortages in Africa and the Middle East. Three Black Sea ports were unblocked last month under a deal between Moscow and Kyiv, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey.