Russia has “almost certainly” removed its submarines from Crimea, British intelligence said Tuesday.
The Kremlin’s move comes as a reaction to Ukraine’s new “long-strike range capability” and repeated attacks on the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula, from where the Russian Black Sea fleet has now “almost certainly relocated its KILO-class submarines” to Novorossiysk in southern Russia, the U.K. said.
In a statement, the British defense ministry said that the submarine relocation is “highly likely” due to the “change in local security threat level,” after the fleet headquarters and main naval aviation field were attacked in recent months.
The U.K. report adds that guaranteeing a Black Sea base for his naval fleet was likely one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motivations for capturing the peninsula in 2014. It added that “base security has now been directly undermined by Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed last week that his country would liberate Crimea from the Russian occupiers. Putin sent forces into Crimea in early 2014, illegally annexing the Black Sea peninsula and then sparking a years-long conflict in the eastern Donbas region.