Four Russian Ropucha class ships have gathered in the Black Sea, joining more than 15 other warships, in preparation for an attack, The Mirror reported, citing ‘military sources’.
The report comes amid rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine as Russia has amassed more than 150,000 troops along the Ukrainian border and in the annexed Crimean peninsula.
‘Ukrainian military take these ships very seriously.
‘We estimate one of the Russian scenarios could be an amphibious and air assault from occupied Crimea to seize water supply facilities in south Ukraine to provide water to Crimea,’ a senior Ukrainian military source told The Mirror.
Four Russian Ropucha class ships have gathered in the Black Sea, joining forces with more than 15 other warships, The Mirror reported, citing ‘military sources’ [File photo]
The newspaper reported sources as saying the ‘most likely’ attack plan would be a maritime and land assault on southern Ukraine from Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
Poor weather may have delayed any potential land attack by several weeks.
Following Russia’s invasion, Ukraine cut off much of the water supply to Crimea, creating a dire shortage.
On Monday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell confirmed there are more than 150,000 troops along the Ukrainian border and in Crimea following talks involving Ukraine’s foreign ministry.
‘It is the highest Russian military deployment at Ukrainian borders ever,’ he said, adding: ‘The risk of further escalation, it’s evident.’
Moscow’s military says it is conducting exercises along its frontier in response to moves by Western military alliance NATO that ‘threaten Russia’.
Putin is continuing to build up his forced on the border with Ukraine, as the government warns troops numbers could swell to 110,000 with 7,000 tanks and other vehicles in support
Military analyst Bruce Jones told The Mirror it was ‘extremely rare’ for amphibious assault ships like the Ropuchas – which can offload tanks and thousands of troops – to join other military craft.
‘It is unprecedented for such a large number of landing ships from so many different Russian fleets to assemble.
‘Vessels such as these were deployed during the 2008 invasion of Georgia to great effect and were used to land special forces and commandos.
‘This happened on Georgian beaches and it happened very quickly.’
Jones told the paper that, if not intended for an offensive, gathering such ships together is an ‘extremely costly’ exercise’.
Ukraine is pushing the West for more practical support as it looks to deter any further aggression from Moscow.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky (left) and his wife Olena (second left) were in Paris last week where they met with President Macron and wife Brigitte
Kiev’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba pressed the EU to prepare ‘a new set of sectoral sanctions’ against Russia in talks with his counterparts from the 27-nation bloc on Monday.
But Borrell said that there were currently no further sanctions being proposed or under consideration.
Observers have also suggested the unannounced build-up could be designed as a test for Joe Biden, as Putin attempts to get the measure of his new counterpart.
Biden has called for the Russian president to ‘de-escalate’ tensions and proposed a summit which could take place in Finland in the coming months.
The move has been hailed as a win by Moscow, after Biden previously took a hard line against Putin – calling him ‘a killer’ and refusing to meet with him on the basis that he was too busy.
As well as seeking support from the US, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has turned to his European allies, last week meeting with France’s President Emanuel Macron in Paris and speaking with German Chancellor Angela Merkel via videolink.
The pair pledged their backing for Ukraine, but offered little in the way of practical support.
Meanwhile, the UK has offered to send two warships to the Black Sea as a warning to Putin, according to leaked documents, after the US cancelled the deployment of two of its own vessels to the region.