Black Sea Storm Disrupts Russian Navy's Operations

Heavy waves come ashore in Crimea, Nov. 26 (Anton Geraschenko)

Published Nov 28, 2023 8:06 PM by The Maritime Executive

The winter storm that caused multiple casualties in the Black Sea last weekend has also forced the Russian Navy to withdraw its surface combatants back into port, according to the Ukrainian armed forces. 

The Institute for the Study of War reports that some of the region's abundant moored sea mines may have gone adrift in heavy weather, adding to the existing risk of encountering drifting explosive devices in the Black Sea. Multiple drifting mines have been reported in the western Black Sea since the beginning of the Russian invasion, and at least one floated ashore as far east as Batumi, Georgia. Several ships have been damaged by mine strikes, including the ill-fated freighter Kafkametler, which went down in severe weather off Turkey earlier this month. 

The storm was the most powerful on record in Crimea, and it has reportedly damaged Russian coastal defenses in the Sevastopol region, according to Ukrainian officials. Rail lines used to support Russian forces have also been washed out in several locations. 



According to naval analyst H.I. Sutton, satellite imagery appears to show that all of the diver-detection dolphin pens in the harbor at Sevastopol appear to have been washed away. Ukraine's navy has attacked the harbor multiple times using unmanned drone boats, and imagery appears to show that the storm took a heavy toll on the boom fencing system that the Russian Navy installed to keep out small craft.

On shore, 18 people were killed as a consequence of the high winds and extreme blizzard conditions in Ukraine and Russia. About 150,000 households were left without power around Ukraine in freezing-cold conditions, and Russia's energy ministry said that 1.9 million people were without power in Russian and Russian-controlled territories around the Black Sea's periphery. 

The severe winter weather has had serious effects on merchant shipping. At least three vessels have been lost in the Black Sea and Aegean over the past 10 days; the Caspian Pipeline Consortium has suspended loading; and multiple groundings have been reported in Italy, Turkey and Russia. Ports in both Ukraine and Crimea have suspended grain exports due to heavy weather, and Russian officials have ordered the closure of the strategic Kerch Strait, which connects the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.