ODESA, Ukraine—Commercial vessels have resumed using Ukraine’s main port of Odesa without asking permission from Russia for the first time since the war began—showing just how much the balance of power has changed in the Black Sea.
By imposing an asymmetrical war that relies on domestically produced naval drones and missiles, and that targets Russians ships in their own home bases, Ukraine has eroded much of Russia’s vaunted naval superiority. Now, it is taking the battle to Russia itself.
“To ensure our security, now and in the future, we must start the defense of our shore on the shore of the enemy,” the commander of the Ukrainian navy, Vice Adm. Oleksiy Neizhpapa, said in an interview. “This is an approach that we’re trying to implement little by little.”
Outnumbered 12 to one by the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the Ukrainian Navy wasn’t considered a meaningful force when Russia invaded in February 2022. Ukraine quickly scuttled its flagship frigate, then undergoing repairs in Mykolaiv, so that the vessel wouldn’t fall to Russian forces.
In Odesa, port operations had ceased. Residents could see enemy warships with the naked eye. Massed on the horizon, the Russian Navy fired artillery at the city and maneuvered with impunity in preparations for landing troops ashore.
Today, Russian warships no longer dare to venture into the northwestern part of the Black Sea, deterred by Ukrainian coastal missiles and extensive minefields. The Russian Black Sea Fleet itself has suffered heavy losses as a result of a series of successful Ukrainian strikes, with no areas of the Black Sea safe for it anymore.