Missing in Action: Why the Russian Navy Is Nowhere to Be Seen in Ukraine

In the early days of the War in Ukraine, the Russian Navy was a major player in the conflict.

Now, it has suddenly disappeared and hasn’t played a leading role in the war.

However, the Army and Air Force are fighting in the Dombas… What could have happened to the Russian Navy in what seems like a sudden retreat?

The truth is that Russia is not willing to risk its warships

SPH Bohdana firing on russian troops on the Snake island
Russian troops on the Snake island by General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Licensed under CC by 4.0.

Since the sinking of the Moskva in April, Russia has withdrawn most of its warships to be out of the range of Ukrainian missiles. Now, their role is relegated to the background – and Russian leaders are not willing to risk a single ship in the war.


Most Russian efforts are now directed at fighting on the ground, with the Army and Air Force taking the lead. But, in reality, the Russian army is taking this heavy burden alone since the Russian air force and the navy is risking the least amount of assets possible.

Basically, they are leaving the Russian Army fighting with outdated weapons against relatively modern artillery provided to Ukraine by the US, such as the HIMARS and the M270 MLRS.

In the last few weeks, Ukrainian artillery has been putting pressure on Russian forces, pushing back their positions much further to the east, and dealing a considerable amount of material and troop losses.


This has caused significant damage to Russian forces and has put them at a disadvantage. Now, the Ukrainian Army is making significant progress… and from the sea, there is very little that can be done to stop this situation.

The sinking of the Movska affected the morale of the Russian Navy

Project 1164 Moskva 2012 G2
Project 1164 Moskva 2012 G2 by George Chernilevsky. Public Domain.

A large part of Russian sailors considers this war a fratricidal and pointless war. They are unwilling to die for nothing and don’t even have enough equipment to fight anyway.

Even the Russian most important warship, the Admiral Kuznetsov, is barely operational – and is a reflection of the Russian Navy’s state.


That’s why the Russian Navy has largely avoided direct confrontation with Ukrainian forces.

Additionally, the morale within the Russian Navy plummeted when the Moskva was sunk… And Russia hasn’t recovered from its loss.

The Russian Navy wasn’t prepared for this war

Joint exercises of Northern and Black Sea fleets
Joint exercises of Northern and Black Sea fleets by Пресс-служба. Licensed under CC by 4.0.

Before the war broke out, the Russian Navy had embarked on an ambitious modernization program with the goal of becoming a truly global force.


But, the Navy was committed to developing unrealistic projects with little real substance in the short term, similar to the Russian Air Force’s development of the Su-57 or Su-75.

The actual scenario is that Russia’s Black Sea Fleet was woefully unprepared for the outbreak of the war. The lack of adequate supplies, modern weapons, and proper training for sailors makes direct combat with Ukraine too risky – and they would undoubtedly lose more warships in case of direct confrontations.

So, there is little incentive for the Russian Navy to fight when Russia’s naval base in Crimea provides a secure base of operations for Russian ships, making it unnecessary to venture into hostile waters.


War took the Russian Navy by surprise

The Russian Navy has been facing substantial budgetary constraints in recent years, and sailors are not truly convinced that the war is worthwhile.

The results are clear: they have had a relatively poor performance. They haven’t been able to establish superiority on the seas, nor have they been able to efficiently support the activities on land.

Featured image credit: UKRAINE-CRISIS/RUSSIA-SHIP by manhhai. Licensed under CC by 2.0.


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