March 5, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Ukraine sinks a new large patrol ship; one third of Black Sea Fleet now disabled

Institute for the Study of War

Ukraine destroyed the Project 22160 Sergei Kotov large patrol ship of the Black Sea Fleet (BSF) off the coast of the Kerch Strait on the night of March 4-5. Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported on March 5 that GUR special unit “Group 13” conducted the attack against the Sergei Kotov using Magura V5 naval drones, inflicting severe damage on the port and starboard sides of the ship, killing seven sailors, and wounding six. GUR noted that Russian forces were likely able to evacuate 52 other crew members, but that the loss of the ship cost Russia a total of $65 million. Ukrainian sources noted that the Sergei Kotov had either a Ka-29 or Ka-27 helicopter on board, which Ukrainian forces destroyed along with the ship. A Russian insider source claimed that after the initial naval drone strike, BSF forces tried to tow the ship back to port, but that the damage was so severe that the ship sank five kilometers off the coast of Cape Takil, southeastern Crimea. The Sergei Kotov was one of the BSF’s newest vessels and only entered service in January 2021. The Ukrainian Armed Forces Center for Strategic Communications (StratCom) reported that Ukrainian forces had disabled about 33 percent of the BSF’s warships as of early February 2024, including 24 ships and one submarine.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for two senior Russian commanders for their responsibility in perpetrating Russian war crimes – the first time the ICC has charged Russian military commanders. The ICC issued arrest warrants on March 5 for Lieutenant General Sergei Kobylash, the commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces’ Long-Range Aviation, and Admiral Viktor Sokolov, the former commander of the Black Sea Fleet (BSF), for their role in the war crimes of directing attacks at civilian objects and causing excessive or incidental harm to civilians or damage to civilian objects and the crime against humanity of inhumane acts under the Rome Statute between at least October 10, 2022, to at least March 9, 2023. The ICC last issued arrest warrants for Russian officials’ involvement in war crimes in Ukraine in March 2022 against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kremlin-appointed Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova for the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukraine destroyed the Project 22160 Sergei Kotov large patrol ship of the Black Sea Fleet (BSF) off the coast of the Kerch Strait on the night of March 4-5.
  • Russian milbloggers responded to the sinking of the Sergei Kotov by decrying the Russian military command’s lack of response to the incident and mounting a wider critique against the bureaucratic inertia of the Russian military apparatus.
  • Russian aircraft appear to be continuing to conduct a relatively high volume of glide bomb strikes in Ukraine despite Ukrainian officials’ reports that Ukrainian forces have downed several bomber aircraft in recent weeks.
  • Russia and China are deepening their strategic space cooperation, including cooperation on satellite surveillance and space exploration.
  • The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for two senior Russian commanders for their responsibility in perpetrating Russian war crimes – the first time the ICC has charged Russian military commanders.
  • Russian forces are reportedly operating a “black market” to sell Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs), including to Russian paramilitary groups that may be conducting their own POW exchanges with Ukraine.
  • The director of the Moldovan Intelligence and Security Service, Alexandru Musteata, stated on March 5 that the Kremlin has begun to conduct multi-year hybrid operations aimed at destabilizing Moldova and preventing its accession to the EU.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Donetsk City amid continued positional engagements along the entire line of contact on March 5.
  • Russian authorities are reportedly disbanding elements of the former Wagner Group that were supposed to join Rosgvardia or are currently in Belarus.
  • Russian law enforcement is likely intensifying crackdowns against Crimean Tatars in occupied Crimea.

For full report: https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-5-2024 

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