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Russia’s new river patrol force will likely have the same explosive problem battering its Black Sea Fleet, Western intel says


  • Russia’s top general announced the formation of a new Dnipro River patrol force last week.

  • Western intelligence says these troops will likely be vulnerable to Ukraine’s fleet of drone boats.

  • Kyiv has used these exploding naval drones to wreak havoc on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

Russia’s new river patrol force could be vulnerable to the same exploding naval drones that Ukraine has used to wreak havoc on Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet, according to Western intelligence.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu last week announced the formation of the Dnipro River “Flotilla” and a “riverboat brigade” as part of a larger effort to bolster Moscow’s forces by the end of the year.

Britain’s defense ministry said the new formation “will likely be responsible for securing” the Dnipro’s strategic waterways and islands that separate Ukrainian-controlled and Russian-occupied territory in the southern Kherson region.

The Dnipro was long a natural barrier preventing Ukrainian forces in Kherson from advancing south across the river and into the Russian-occupied territory, but this area has experienced combat flare-ups in recent months.

Elite Ukrainian naval forces raiding a Russian-occupied island in the Dnipro river.

Elite Ukrainian naval forces raiding a Russian-occupied island in the Dnipro river.The Command of the Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine/Facebook

“Russia likely wants to prevent and deny Ukrainian cross-river operations, such as the operation to establish and maintain the Krynky bridgehead,” Britain’s defense ministry wrote in a Wednesday intelligence update.

Krynky is a small village on the eastern bank of the Dnipro, near the city of Kherson, where Ukrainian forces established a bridgehead, or strong foothold, in the fall. Kyiv has since sought to expand its presence there, leading to intense fighting — and heavy troop and equipment losses on both sides. Over the past few weeks in particular, Ukraine has managed to repel heavy assaults by the Russians around Krynky.

It’s not immediately clear if Moscow’s new river patrol formation is a direct result of these recent developments, but either way, these forces will probably not be sailing into uncontested waters.

“The Dnipro Flotilla will likely be vulnerable to Ukrainian uncrewed surface vehicles which have been effective in destroying Russian vessels operating in the Black Sea,” Britain’s defense ministry said.

Ukrainian infantrymen soldiers travel on the Dnipro River on boats on September 14, 2023 in Kherson region, Ukraine.

Ukrainian infantrymen soldiers travel on the Dnipro River in the Kherson region in September.Photo by Libkos/Getty Images

Ukraine turned to uncrewed surface vehicles, or USVs, after Russia launched its full-scale invasion to make up for the fact that it didn’t have a proper navy of its own. These systems are essentially just small drone boats packed with explosives and have proven to be an innovative solution for Kyiv in the maritime battle space.

Ukraine has relied on USVs, along with cruise missiles developed domestically and provided by the country’s Western partners, to wreak havoc on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet — damaging or destroying roughly a third of its warships since the war started — and unblock a key maritime corridor in the region, which is crucial to supporting Kyiv’s economy.

This asymmetric style of warfare has compelled Russia to undertake some additional defensive measures, like adding machine gun crews on its ships and increasing aerial patrols, but Moscow has ultimately proven that it’s incapable of consistently defending against the threat.

In some cases, the Kremlin has relocated some elements of the Black Sea Fleet to Russian ports and away from its vulnerable headquarters in Sevastopol, a city in the occupied Crimean peninsula.

Ukraine's newly released Sea Baby drone "Avdiivka" during a presentation in the Kyiv region on March 5, 2024.

Ukraine’s newly released Sea Baby drone “Avdiivka” during a presentation in the Kyiv region on March 5, 2024.AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka

Because the fleet is now mainly operating in the eastern Black Sea and farther away from the Kherson region, Russia’s new Dnipro formation will likely assume its river patrolling responsibilities, British intelligence said on Wednesday.

While it’s unclear what sort of manpower or capabilities the river patrol force will have, analysts at the Institute for the Study of War think tank suggested that Russia could end up using it to support its own cross-river raids into the western bank of the Dnipro river, which is controlled by Ukraine.

And although the flotilla may not have the capabilities needed to support a large footprint in the western bank or the reoccupation of Ukrainian territory, it could be enough to pin down critical resources that Kyiv needs elsewhere, the analysts wrote in a March 20 assessment.

The deployment of the flotilla, they said, “may force the Ukrainian command to make challenging decisions about resource attribution as it husbands limited stores of artillery ammunition and other critical military equipment.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

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