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In a recent attack, the Ukrainian military claimed to have struck two Russian navy landing ships in Sevastopol, in Russian-occupied Crimea using British-made Storm Shadow missiles or French-made SCALP-EGs launched by Sukhoi Su-24 bombers. The strikes targeted the Ropucha-class vessels Yamal and Azov, potentially eliminating 15 percent of the Black Sea Fleet’s pre-war force of around a dozen landing ships. However, these attacks may not significantly shift the balance of power along the southern front in Ukraine.

The Black Sea Fleet, which began Russia’s wider war in Ukraine with nine landing ships, has seen significant losses over the past two years of conflict. Ukrainian forces have destroyed five Ropuchas, as well as other ships including a cruiser, a submarine, and several patrol boats. These hits have depleted the Fleet’s combat power and created a maritime no-man’s-land for large warships, allowing Ukraine to resume sea trade out of the Black Sea.

Despite the successes in targeting Russian ships, these attacks have come too late to achieve another war aim of strangling the Russian field armies in occupied southern Ukraine. The Black Sea Fleet’s landing ships were previously vital for supplying these forces, along with the rail and road bridge connecting Russia to Crimea. However, new infrastructure developments, such as a new railway connecting Rostov in southern Russia to Russian-occupied Ukrainian cities, have decreased the time it takes to move supplies to southern Ukraine, making it harder to interdict Russian forces.

The increased infrastructure and decreased reliance on landing ships mean that the Russian forces in southern Ukraine are no longer as vulnerable to disruptions in maritime supply routes. While the destruction of Russian landing ships may be a satisfying sight for supporters of Ukraine, it may have limited impact on the Russian military’s ability to operate in the region. The changing dynamics of supply routes and the resilience of Russian forces highlight the complexity of the conflict and the challenges faced by Ukrainian forces in their efforts to resist Russian aggression.

Despite the challenges and changing strategies in the conflict, the Ukrainian military’s ability to successfully target and destroy Russian ships demonstrates their determination and capability to defend their country against foreign aggression. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine continues to be a focal point of international attention, with implications for regional security and stability. The evolving tactics and strategies of both the Ukrainian and Russian forces highlight the complexities of modern warfare and the challenges faced by countries and military alliances in addressing conflicts in the 21st century.

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