On Sunday morning, three Ukrainian Navy ships, the gunboats Berdyansk and Nikopol and Yani Kapu tug, attempted to sail from the Black Sea port of Odessa to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov. The vessels were blocked at the Kerch Strait by a tanker placed under the Kerch bridge – the only access to the Sea of Azov. The tug was rammed and all three vessels were subsequently seized by the Russians and taken to the port in Kerch.
Russia claims the three ships entered its waters illegally while Ukraine says they were hit and disabled, injuring six crewmembers as they attempted to leave the area. The Ukrainians also say they informed Russia about their plans in advance and that the seizure of its vessels represents “another act of armed aggression” by its neighbor. Russia accused Ukraine of violating legal norms by sending the ships into the area in a “pre-planned provocation”.
As the blame game intensifies and tensions rise, the stakes are getting higher. Russia has escalated the situation by seizing Ukrainian vessels by force and causing casualties. As the following infographic shows, the Ukrainian Navy is in no position to take on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in the event of open hostilities. It only has one frigate, the Hetman Sahaydachniy. It has been plagued by reliability problems and its current status is unclear after it suffered engine problems in May 2017.
Meanwhile the Black Sea fleet boats an armada of well-armed guided missile cruisers, destroyers and frigates. It also has seven diesel attack submarines. The fleet’s flagship, guided missile cruiser Moskva, displaces 12,500 tons fully loaded and is armed with 16 P-500 Bazalt missiles.