Zelensky says Ukraine has upper hand in Black Sea as Russia warships “hide”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday said his armed forces have the advantage over Russia in the Black Sea.

“We managed to seize the initiative from Russia in the Black Sea and created such security conditions that force the aggressor to flee the eastern part of the water area and try to hide warships,” Zelensky told participants of the summit of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (PABSEC), according to independent Russian news outlet Meduza.

He added: “For the first time in the world, it was in the Black Sea that a fleet of naval drones began to operate—a Ukrainian fleet.”

Zelensky noted that in the early stages of the war launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Ukraine in February 2022, Moscow’s forces managed to secure a tight hold on the Black Sea’s ports. However, in recent months, Ukraine—a country without a naval fleet—has ramped up attacks on Russian vessels on the waters using sea drones and missiles.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a joint press conference on November 4, 2023, in Kyiv, Ukraine. Zelensky on Thursday said his military has taken the upper hand over Russia in the Black Sea.
Photo by Viktor Kovalchuk/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

Earlier this week, a military group made up of Ukrainian partisans claimed that many of the warships in Russia’s Black Sea Fleet have departed from their home port in Crimea due to the frequent attacks by Kyiv’s military.

Atesh, a military movement of Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars, posted the claim on Telegram, where they described a “real panic” among Putin’s naval fleet.

Newsweek reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense via email Thursday for comment.

Since the start of the war, Kyiv’s cruise missile and drone attacks have damaged at least 17 Russian vessels that have either been part of or functioning in cooperation with the Black Sea Fleet. This includes a strike earlier this month on a newly constructed small warship, named the Askold, which was docked in the Crimean city of Kerch.

During his Thursday remarks, Zelensky singled out PABSEC members Bulgaria, Turkey, Romania and Moldova for their support, which he said has allowed for success in the Black Sea.

“I would also like to point out that now, as one of the key results of our actions, Russia is unable to use the Black Sea as a springboard to destabilize other regions of the world,” the Ukrainian leader said.

He continued: “The situation in the Black Sea region and the development of our cooperation have a direct impact on the growth opportunities for the Balkans and the Baltic Sea region. By overcoming Russian aggression, we are protecting all the peoples of the Baltic-Black Sea-Azov space and neighboring regions.”

Zelensky concluded his remarks to the summit by calling on the 13 member states of PABSEC to continue to “limit” Russia’s “ability to put pressure on any of the peoples of our region.”