Turkey closes Black Sea, puts massive strain on the Russian navy

Russia is no longer able to operate in the western part of the Black Sea, said naval expert Iain Ballantyne.

Turkey’s decision to close the Black Sea’s only access point from the Mediterranean is putting massive strain on the Russian navy, with some ships having to travel to the Pacific for vital maintenance. Iain Ballantyne, an expert on naval warfare, also said recent drone attacks by Ukrainian forces had robbed Russia of the ability to operate in the west of the waterway, seriously hampering Putin more than eight months after declaring war on his neighbour.

Turkey, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, controls access to the Black Sea via the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits – and confirmed it was closing off the narrow passage to warships on February 28, four days after Putin announced his full-scale invasion.

Mr Ballantyne is the editor of International Warships Fleet Review as well as an historical author who has recently published his latest book, HMS London.

He told Express.co.uk: “This has forced Russia to send warships needing maintenance after long months in a face off with NATO in the Mediterranean home to either the Pacific, the Baltic or the Arctic rather than to Black Sea naval shipyards.”

As well as providing Russia’s President other a major headache, the move has also underlined Turkey’s increasing influence, especially in the Mediterranean region, Mr Ballantyne pointed out.

He explained: “The predominant NATO naval power in the Black Sea is Turkey with a very capable, balanced fleet, including frigates, minehunters and submarines…and also on the cutting edge with using drones across various missions.

“The other NATO navies do their bit too, including the ex-HMS London, in which I sailed to Murmansk and Archangel in 1991 and which serves on to this day as the ROS Regina Maria in the Romanian fleet.”

Speaking after a week during which three Russian warships including the flagship Admiral Makarov were reportedly damaged by Ukrainian drone attacks, he added: “The Russian Navy has lost the ability to operate in the western Black Sea following the loss of the cruiser RFS Moskva, plus other vessels, and was also forced to quit Snake Island.

“Today it is not even safe in its main base of Sevastopol, in the Crimea, as demonstrated in recent months via Ukrainian air and sea drone attacks.

“It has been forced to fall back on its major naval base at Novorossiysk on the eastern shores of the Black Sea.