Escalation in Black Sea? Ukraine Says It Destroyed Russian Patrol Boat

Ukraine claimed Tuesday that its forces had destroyed a Russian military patrol boat on the Black Sea near the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia 10 years ago. The strategic waterway has become an increasingly important battleground of Russia’s two-year invasion as Ukrainian forces claim a string of attacks on Moscow’s fleet.

The overnight strike by Ukrainian naval drones on a Russian patrol ship left critical damage to the stern, starboard, and port sides of the vessel, Ukrainian military intelligence reported on its Telegram channel. The military intelligence agency said the attack was conducted by the armed forces and military intelligence’s elite Group 13 special operations unit using Magura V5 naval drones. The drones are designed to evade missile-defense systems on warships and destroy them at close range. The Group 13 unit had also claimed to have sunk the missile-armed corvette Ivanovets and a landing ship named Caesar Kunikov in February. However, Moscow did not confirm either of those claims. Private intelligence firm Ambrey also reported that a video showing night-time footage of the drone strike on the Ivanovets showed the ship listing heavily to its port side.

Before Putin’s takeover of Crimea in March 2014, the peninsula was a thriving economic and cultural center with a population of 2.4 million. In the wake of the annexation, Crimean enterprises that depended on exports to foreign markets were hit by Russian sanctions, and subsidies from Moscow increased the focus of the local economy toward the military-industrial complex as the Kremlin restored Soviet-era factories.

In the aftermath of a “referendum” that many outside observers criticized as fraudulent, 90 percent of Crimeans voted to join Russia. While international law and public opinion have deemed the takeover illegal, Moscow has not reversed it. Instead, the occupying force has reengineered the institutions of the old Ukrainian state: passport offices began accepting applications for Russian citizenship, notaries reregistered real estate in Russia’s name, and lawyers integrated local laws into those from the former USSR.

The reengineering has damaged the economy. Trade between Ukraine and Crimea has dropped, foreign investment in the area has diminished, and tens of thousands of Crimeans have moved to Russia to find work. The peninsula now largely relies on the Russian government’s generosity, with two-thirds of its budget devoted to Russian subsidies and other payments.

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