Russia could launch another invasion of Ukraine by sea – a form of attack that Russian forces “constantly practice”, including in Crimea, the deputy head of the Ukrainian navy said.
Vice Admiral Andriy Tarasov called the threat of an amphibious assault “real” but told Sky News the Ukrainian armed forces would repel such an attempt.
He also accused the Russian Navy and Coast Guard of increasingly hostile activities in a shared sea that connects the two countries, closing bodies of water to Ukrainian maritime traffic for non-existent military exercises.
Russia has occasionally used jamming devices in the Sea of Azov to disrupt communications and navigation devices on Ukrainian ships, the senior officer added.
This meant that the ability of commercial vessels to operate from Ukrainian ports in the region has been restricted, with 70% of the sea out of bounds last month and the volume of cargo able to enter and exit decreasing by up to 50% during of the past eight years, he added.
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A large build-up of Russian forces near Ukraine – which has raised fears in the UK, US and across the NATO alliance that Russia is considering another invasion of its neighbor – included the maritime border, Vice-Admiral Tarasov, 51, mentioned.
“The [Russian] the armed forces can handle the landing of the paratroopers, “he said in an exclusive interview, speaking through a translator in a building for naval officers in the port city of Odessa, located in black sea shore.
“Their level of preparation is quite high and they constantly practice such actions in training areas, including in Crimea.
“If such forces have been assembled, we must be able to prevent them from having the opportunity to disembark. Given that they exist, then the threat is real.
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This is one of the reasons the Navy is focused on rebuilding its fleet, which was decimated after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
The peninsula, which straddles the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea, was the seat of the navy and guarded the majority of its ships – many of which were captured by Russia.
Ukraine “grateful for UK support”
The UK is an important ally, supporting Ukraine’s efforts to purchase new warships and weapons, including missiles, as well as to renovate other naval bases, Vice Admiral Tarasov said.
Under an agreement finalized last year, Kiev will be able to seek £ 1.7 billion in loans from London for its projects.
“We are very grateful… We have been given a real opportunity to realize the [naval] strategy that we had planned in 2018, ”said the senior officer.
But acquiring new warships and building bases will take time – and the threat to Ukraine is now.
Still, the admiral said he was confident other parts of the Ukrainian armed forces would be able to help the navy defend its coastline if needed.
“If you want peace, you have to be ready for war,” he said. “Since 2014, we have focused on restoring our Marines and Coastal Artillery… We have restored their potential. At the moment, the forces we have on the coast are capable of repelling any landing party from the enemy. “