On Tuesday, Russia sent six amphibious landing ships and a submarine to the Dardanelles Straits, which connect the Mediterranean to the Black Sea.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense shared a video of the ship movements in a Tuesday tweet. “#Video Detachment of large landing ships of the Russian Navy passes the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits.”
According to Naval News, the entry into the Dardanelles is significant as regulations in the waterways connecting the Mediterranean to the Black Sea dictate that ships are not allowed to reverse course. By entering the Dardanelles, the Russian warships have thereby removed any doubt that their destination is in the Black Sea.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the Ropucha class large landing ships (LLS) Pyotr Morgunov, Georgy Pobedonosets and Olenegorsky Gornyak are scheduled to enter the Black Sea by Wednesday, and the landing ships Korolev, Minsk and Kaliningrad are still sailing through the Dardanelles.
Naval News reported the Russian KILO Class submarine Rostov-na-Donu (B-237) is also set to enter the Black Sea by Feb. 11.
The Russian military said the warships would operate in the Black Sea as part of a training operation “to work out the actions of the Navy and Aerospace Forces to protect Russian national interests in the world Ocean, as well as to counter military threats to the Russian Federation from sea and ocean directions.”
The entry of the Russian landing ships in the Black Sea comes as Russia has around 100,000 troops positioned along Ukraine’s borders. Each Ropucha class landing ship can up to 10 main battle tanks and 340 troops, or 12 BTR amphibious armored vehicles, three main battle tanks and 340 troops. The six landing ships could deploy more than 2,000 troops and 90 armored vehicles to attack Ukraine’s shores in conjunction with a Russian overland attack.
The KILO class submarine can also carry up to 24 naval mines, 18 torpedoes and four Kalibr land-attack missiles. The land-attack missiles could strike targets in Ukraine ahead of an invasion force and the submarines mines and torpedoes could further hinder either Ukrainian or NATO-allied ships from attempting to reinforce Ukraine by sea.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said the warships had refueled and reprovisioned at Tartus, Syria, Russia’s main naval base in the Mediterranean prior to entering the Dardanelles.
Turkey, a NATO member, legally could shut down traffic through the straits into the Black Sea if Russia attacked Ukraine, but for now, the waterway remains open.
Reuters reported Turkey has warm relations with both Russia and Ukraine and, last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan offered to mediate talks between Ukraine and Russia. Erdogan has also said Turkey would do what it sees as necessary as a NATO member, in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.