MARK GALEOTTI: Ukraine is mastering the art of 21st century warfare09/25/2023
MARK GALEOTTI: The missile strike that killed a top Russian admiral is proof that Ukraine is mastering the art of 21st century warfare
This is proof that Ukraine – with the help of the West – is mastering the art of 21st century warfare.
The Sevastopol missile strike that killed Admiral Viktor Sokolov along with 34 of his officers on Saturday shows that modern military operations depend on combining accurate intelligence and rapid decision-making with advanced machinery.
In this case, British Storm Shadow long-range missiles are believed to have been used to obliterate the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
While we have all seen spectacular video footage of strikes in Ukraine, the clandestine work of the intelligence services is, for obvious reasons, seldom witnessed.
In this case, it is likely that the US and British intelligence services provided accurate information to the Ukrainians about the timing and location of a meeting of the Black Sea Fleet’s top brass in Sevastopol.
The Sevastopol missile strike that killed Admiral Viktor Sokolov (pictured) along with 34 of his officers on Saturday shows that modern military operations depend on combining accurate intelligence and rapid decision-making with advanced machinery
This was probably based on both intelligence gained from people privy to the secrets of the fleet and the interception of military communications.
It was then down to the Ukrainians to plan and execute an operation that overwhelmed Russia’s air defences to strike with devastating force at exactly the right place and time.
The result is a humiliating blow to Russian morale. While the Kremlin-controlled media has so far remained largely silent about the raid, rage-filled posts on social media complain of Moscow’s inept handling of its ‘special military operation’.
Many point out that the losses of the fleet, supposedly one of the jewels of the Russian military, are mounting alarmingly. Not only was its flagship, the Moskva, sunk in April last year, but a number of other major vessels including two warships and a modern submarine were destroyed last week in dry dock in Sevastopol.
But what does this missile attack mean? The immediate effect on the Black Sea Fleet will be operational paralysis until new officers assume command. Don’t expect any aggressive moves – for example on the Ukrainian grain shipments now recommencing from Odesa.
The Sevastopol operation has given Vladimir Putin (pictured) and his apparatchiks in the Kremlin a painful bloody nose and, more importantly, it’s a triumph that shows Ukraine can fight smart
And let us remember that the devastating Sevastopol strike is merely the most spectacular in a rolling series of operations that have targeted logistics, communications and command centres.
These operations have used the same deadly combination of pitch-perfect intelligence and pinpoint targeting. They are systematically degrading Russia’s war machine and whipping up paranoia among Russian officers and ordinary soldiers who fear they’re under constant surveillance.
The Sevastopol operation has given Putin and his apparatchiks in the Kremlin a painful bloody nose and, more importantly, it’s a triumph that shows Ukraine can fight smart. But like any such blow, it needs to be delivered again and again – until Russia is finally defeated.
Mark Galeotti is honorary professor at the University College London School of Slavonic and East European Studies and the author of 24 books on Russia, including a biography of Putin
Top Russian admiral ‘killed in missile strike by Ukraine’
By Andy Jehring
Russia’s Black Sea Fleet commander was killed in a missile strike on occupied Crimea, Kyiv claimed yesterday.
Viktor Sokolov, 61, was reportedly among 34 officers wiped out in his HQ on Friday by Storm Shadows supplied by Britain and France.
The admiral had been picked by Vladimir Putin to restore the fleet’s pride after the loss of its flagship Moskva last year.
But Ukraine’s special operations force says he was killed in the strike on the base in Sevastopol that left 105 wounded. Minsk, a large landing ship, was also hit with Kyiv claiming 62 crew were killed.
A spokesman said: ‘Following the destruction of the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, 34 officers died, including the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Another 105 occupiers were wounded. The headquarters building is beyond repair.’
Sokolov, who had served in the Pacific Fleet, is one of the most senior Russian commanders to have been killed in the war. Moscow imposed a news blackout after the blast – indicating that the consequences had been serious. The Black Sea Fleet moved to Sevastopol after Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014.
On the front lines Ukraine has made some breaches in the Russian defences but at the cost of heavy casualties.
READ MORE: Russian commanders killed and others seriously injured in a devastating Ukrainian missile strike against a military headquarters
Moscow has also continued its missile strikes with four killed in an attack on Odesa on Sunday night. Yulia Svyrydenko, Ukraine’s economy minister, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: ‘Another massive attack on Odesa! The attack resulted in the destruction of grain storage facilities and significant damage to the seaport.’
US-manufactured Abrams main battle tanks are starting to arrive in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky revealed yesterday.
On the Telegram messaging app he said: ‘The Abrams tanks have already reached Ukraine and are undergoing preparations to bolster our brigades.’
The US has also said it will soon provide a small number of the Army Tactical Missile Systems – ballistic weapons with a range of 190 miles. Meanwhile a UN report has found that Russian occupiers tortured Ukrainians so brutally that some victims died while they also forced families to listen as they raped women.
Erik Mose, chairman of a commission of inquiry on Ukraine, told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva his team had ‘collected further evidence indicating that the use of torture by Russian armed forces in areas under their control has been widespread and systematic’.
He added: ‘In some cases, torture was inflicted with such brutality that it caused the death of the victim. Russian soldiers raped and committed sexual violence against women of ages ranging from 19 to 83 years.’
Moscow was given an opportunity to respond to the allegations at the council hearing but no Russian representative attended. The leading UN expert on the abuse claimed yesterday that torture was Russian ‘state policy’.
Dr Alice Jill Edwards, who is an Australian lawyer, told The Times: ‘It’s not just that it’s so widespread. The methods of doing it, the purposes for doing it and the targets are consistent.’
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