Russia ‘sacks naval commander’ after humiliating Black Sea sinkings

Vladimir Putin and commander-in-chief of the Russian navy, Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov
Vladimir Putin and commander-in-chief of the Russian navy, Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov - ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/AFP
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Russia appears to have sacked its top naval commander after a series of humiliating setbacks in the Black Sea, where its warships have been pounded by Ukrainian drones and missiles.

Two Russian news sources said Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, the Russian navy’s commander-in-chief since May 2019, had been fired and replaced by Admiral Alexander Moiseev.

Admiral Moiseev trained as a submariner under the Soviet Union. In 1998, he was credited with firing the first commercial micro-satellites into space from the nuclear-powered submarine he commanded.

Both Izvestia, a Moscow-based newspaper linked to the Kremlin, and Fontaka, a St Petersburg news agency, quoted unnamed sources confirming the change of command at the top of the Russian navy, based in St Petersburg.

Neither the Russian ministry of defence nor the Kremlin have commented. Unusually, too, Kremlin-linked Russian military bloggers have also not yet confirmed the change of leadership.

Russia’s navy has been heavily criticised during the war for being unable to defeat the smaller Ukrainian navy.

It has been virtually chased off the occupied Crimean peninsula after Ukrainian drone and missile strikes destroyed several warships and submarines, and has started to build a new base for its Black Sea fleet in a pro-Russia breakaway region of Georgia that is roughly 380 miles from Ukraine.

This week, Ukrainian intelligence said that one of its drones had hit and sunk a Russian patrol ship, killing seven sailors. In February, Russia’s ministry of defence sacked its Black Sea Fleet commander for the third time since the start of the war.

Admiral Moiseev has been commander of Russia’s northern fleet, based in the Arctic since 2019. He served as head of the Black Sea fleet from 2018.

Putin’s tinkering

Vladimir Putin is notorious for tinkering with personnel appointments. He has changed his military commander in Ukraine four times since his forces invaded in February 2022.

Although it has been humiliated in the Black Sea, Russian forces are on the advance along the frontline in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

Russian military bloggers said that the Kremlin’s forces were making gains, although Ukrainian forces were putting up stiff resistance in villages around Chasiv Yar, which lies to the west of Bakhmut.

“In Kleshcheevka, they report the advance of our troops. At the same time, they note that the Ukrainian armed forces soldiers are showing staunch resistance,” the Two Majors channel quoted Russian soldiers as saying.

Ukraine’s forces have been criticised for not preparing defences over the summer when it launched its major counteroffensive.

The British Ministry of Defence said on Sunday that they were now digging trenches, laying minefields, building defence positions and setting tank traps. “The expansion of the defensive lines will reduce Russia’s ability to advance or exploit tactical gains,” it said.

CNN and the New York Times have also reported that US officials feared Russia could use a tactical nuclear bomb on the battlefield for the first time after Ukrainian gains near Kharkiv and Kherson in late 2022 and that the US military had been “preparing rigorously” for a response.

US agencies obtained communication intercepts that showed one of Russia’s most senior military commanders was explicitly discussing the logistics of detonating a weapon on the battlefield, the New York Times said.

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