Black Sea, the naval and commercial battle: mines and missiles in the duel between Moscow and Kiev

Meanwhile, the Ukrainians showed images of the first Harpoons supplied by NATO countries, anti-ship systems intended to expand coastal defense. With a radius of about 140 kilometers, they represent a pitfall for invaders

Kiev started the conflict with only a few Neptune specimens, bombs produced locally and in a few specimens, capable of covering a distance of 280 kilometers. And with this minimum arsenal they achieved a maximum result by sinking the flagship Moskva: a surprise blow that partially affected Moscow’s maritime operations. The task force of landing ships that for days pendulumed in front of Odessa moved to safer waters for fear of being the target of more shots. The loss of the cruiser and a couple of small lookouts (as well as a support unit that exploded in the port of Berdyansk) did not prevent the Russians from continuing to support Snake Island, however. the outpost occupied in the first days of the invasion and theater of duels. The Russians reinforced the anti-aircraft positions after the enemy had managed to destroy some of them and, apparently, they managed to foil some raids thanks to a partial superiority of their air force.

Now they have to take into account that, in addition to the Neptune, there are the Harpoons, therefore devices sold from Norway and others arrived from Great Britain. They are arrows that can cause damage, they make the shield more robust, they still create a principle of deterrence. interesting that the Russian Navy has decided to place on a Vasily Bykov-class corvette a Tor anti-aircraft launcher usually used on the ground. These are temporary solutions also adopted by other countries that do not always represent the best choice: according to experts they risk suffering from the salinity of the air and are designed to operate in a very different theater, therefore technical drawbacks cannot be excluded. However we are in the field of hypotheses, in every war the protagonists adaptadapt tactics and means to needs.

Then there is the commercial frontin the center of the inconclusive Wednesday negotiations in Ankara, in Turkey. The maritime blockade imposed by the Russians in the Black Sea stopped grain and other agricultural products in Ukrainian ports (23 million tons, but they could become 75 by autumn, Zelensky says), triggering a global food crisis that affects the poorest countries in Africa and the Middle East in particular. In this match, however, Moscow plays the part of the victim, claiming that the blockade is caused by Western sanctions and thousands of floating mines planted by Ukrainians along the coast to prevent an amphibious attack on Odessa.

The Russian Federation is not creating any obstacles to the passage of ships, Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov said in Ankara, avoiding mentioning that the Army – in addition to stopping trade routes – it destroyed the port of Mariupol and blocked that of Mykolaiv. Russia ready to guarantee trade corridors in the Black Sea, Lavrov clarified, with merchant ships that will be able to set sail from Ukrainian ports accompanied by warships of neutral countries, but only if Kiev clears its shores. The ball in their court, said the Russian minister. Too bad that, replied the Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Economy Taras Kachka, the problem is not the mines – key to protecting Odessa: Ukrainians don’t trust – but Russian warships hindering exports.

Already in March, however, an Estonian freighter sank after hitting one, while others have been found along the coasts of Turkey and RomaniaAccording to the International Maritime Organization, as of April 20 there were 84 boats and 500 crew members stranded in Ukrainian ports, and insurance premiums for those planning to sail in the area are prohibitive. Even if an (unlikely) agreement were to be reached, he explained to the Kiev ministry of agriculture, it would take at least six months to clean up the coasts: specialized equipment would be needed to sift the waters offshore, and it would hardly be possible to clean up the Black Sea before the end of the year.