At least 12 ships in Russia’s Black Sea Fleet have been sunk or severely damaged since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, which represents more than 15% of the fleet’s pre-war combat strength of 74 ships and corvettes, according to opensource data analysed by independent investigative outlet Proekt. In 1990, the Black Sea Fleet had 800 ships, of which 274 were combat ships. However, it then began to shrink dramatically – the number of ships kept declining up until 2014.
By the beginning of the war with Ukraine, the fleet counted 275 vessels, of which only 58 were combat ships – five times fewer warships compared to the Soviet period. The total ship strength decreased by a factor of three. Together with patrol boats, the Black Sea Fleet had 74 combat units by February 2022.
As previously estimated by The Insider, by the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, Russia had six diesel-electric submarines, six large surface ships, including a missile cruiser, 36 other ships and support vessels deployed in the Black Sea area.
In January 2022, under the pretext of “military exercises,” additional Russian naval forces from the Northern, Baltic and Pacific Fleets were transferred to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Six landing ships were added to the Black Sea formation, while the rest remained in the Eastern Mediterranean.
As of February 2022, the Ukrainian Navy consisted of one frigate (which was under repair), 12 patrol and surveillance ships (including one corvette) and slightly over ten other ships, gunboats and cutters. However, Russia managed to lose the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, the Project 1164 Moskva missile cruiser, in a confrontation with a country that essentially has no navy.
On April 13, the Ukrainian Armed Forces hit the Moskva with Neptun missiles. The next day, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that the cruiser had sunk.