By: Marc Santora – The New York Times – Ukraine said on Monday that it had taken control of several oil and gas platforms in the Black Sea, after a series of clashes with Russian aerial and maritime forces in the waters between Odesa and the occupied Crimean Peninsula.
The Ukrainian military intelligence agency released a 13-minute video including combat footage, drone videos and interviews with unidentified special forces soldiers describing what they said was “a unique operation to establish control” over offshore rigs known as the Boyko Towers that Russia seized in 2015.
Like nearby Snake Island, a speck of land south of Odesa, the offshore platforms play a role in Russia’s ability to project power in the Black Sea, where the Kremlin has strangled the Ukrainian economy and wreaked havoc with global food supplies with a de facto naval blockade of Ukrainian ports.
The Russians have used the drilling platforms as forward deployment bases and helicopter landing sites — essentially floating bases. Military analysts and the British military intelligence agency say Russia has installed radar installations and long-range missile systems used to attack Ukraine and defend against strikes on Russian installations in Crimea.
Ukraine stepped up its campaign to drive the Russians from the platforms this summer, according to both Russian and Ukrainian accounts.
In a skirmish last month, Russia said that one of its fighter jets destroyed a high-speed military boat carrying Ukrainian troops. Ukraine’s military intelligence offered a different version of events, saying the Russian fighter jet had come under fire and was forced to retreat.
In the video released on Monday, Ukrainian forces showed what they said were “trophies” from the operation, including a stockpile of helicopter munitions and a radar system that they said can track the movement of ships. And they claimed they had moved closer to achieving their objective of reclaiming Crimea.
Although Ukraine was able to sink the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet early in the war, the Russian Navy has an important base in Crimea and has been a forceful presence during the conflict.
After Russia pulled out of a deal that allowed Ukraine to safely ship its gain through the Black Sea, Moscow threatened to treat civilian ships moving to and from Ukrainian ports as potentially hostile. Russia also began more aggressively targeting infrastructure at Ukraine’s ports, both on the Black Sea and the Danube River.
On Monday, a newly declassified British intelligence report suggested that Russian missiles in an attack last month were aimed at a civilian cargo ship that was docked at a Black Sea port in the Odesa region.
The ship, which sails under the Liberian flag, was unharmed in the Aug. 24 attack after the missiles were shot down by Ukrainian air defenses, the report said.