DUkraine is breaking new ground in warfare and, in the words of President Volodymyr Zelensky, has created an independent military branch called “unmanned systems”. He had already signed the relevant decree, Zelenskyj reported on Tuesday in his evening video address. The new drone forces are “not a question of the future, but rather something that should lead to a very concrete result in the near future.” Drones have proven effective in combat on the ground, in the air and at sea.
“Thanks to drones, Ukraine has really changed the security situation in the Black Sea,” Zelensky said. Through the use of so-called maritime drones – unmanned boats with large explosive loads – the Russian Black Sea Fleet has been pushed out of both the southern Ukrainian coast and the area around the Crimean peninsula. Drones were also widely used in fighting along the fronts to inflict heavy losses on the Russian military.
“The list of tasks is now clear: special staff units for working with drones, special units, effective training, systematization of experience, constant scaling of production and bringing together the best ideas and the best specialists in this area,” said Zelensky, listing the next steps on. This is now a task for the army, the Ministry of Defense and the government as a whole.
Both Russia and Ukraine have used drones so far in the war. In land warfare, the Ukrainian military relies on small drones for both reconnaissance and attacks on targeted targets. These unmanned aircraft are inexpensive to produce. In the future, larger drones will also be mass-produced in the country. Russia, on the other hand, initially used so-called kamikaze drones made in Iran to attack Ukraine's civil infrastructure and has now switched to smaller aircraft for use on the fronts.
Kiev: Russia loses a third of the Black Sea Fleet
According to Kiev's estimates, the Russian Black Sea Fleet has lost almost a third of its combat ships. “According to the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, our military has so far removed 24 Russian ships and one submarine,” the high command said on Telegram on Tuesday. At the start of the war two years ago, the Russian Black Sea Fleet had 74 combat ships. According to the British Ministry of Defense, Moscow now needs to rethink its naval presence around the Crimean peninsula.
Ukraine increases exports by sea
Ukraine exported almost 20 million tons of cargo across the Black Sea in six months after the Russian fleet was pushed back. “70 percent of this cargo is agricultural products from our farmers,” wrote Prime Minister Denys Schmyhal on Telegram on Tuesday. In total, over 660 freighters with destinations in 32 countries left the port in this six-month period. In January, the monthly pre-war level for export volumes by sea was even reached. Of exports worth the equivalent of a good 2.8 billion euros in January, a good 60 percent were exported by sea.
Ukraine has been resisting a Russian invasion for almost two years. For a long time, the Russian Black Sea Fleet tried to hinder Ukrainian exports by sea. An agreement brokered by the UN and Turkey on Russian security guarantees for agricultural exports was also in effect for almost a year. Since it was phased out last summer, Kiev has established a maritime corridor that has been designated as safe. The Ukrainian armed forces had previously recaptured an island in the Black Sea – the so-called Snake Island – and sank several Russian ships, including the flagship “Moskva”.
Heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine
Most recently, the Ukrainian troops, according to their own statements, once again repelled numerous Russian attacks along the fronts in the east of the country. According to the General Staff in Kiev, the focus of the Russian attacks was near Kupyansk, Bakhmut and Avdiivka. Several attempted advances by the Russian military were also reported south of Bakhmut in the central section of the front lines. Kiev's daily updated list of Russian military casualties put the number of Russian soldiers out of action on Tuesday at 390,580. The information cannot be independently verified. The Ukrainian side does not mention its own losses.