The Pentagon on Friday denied any plans to destroy one of Russia most consequential naval fleets, despite claims by the Ukrainian government to this effect. But officials left the possibility open new shipments of weapons that would dramatically change the scope of naval warfare in the region.
Anton Herashchenko, official adviser to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, tweeted A translation late Thursday read: “The US is preparing a plan to destroy the Black Sea Fleet” to force access to strategic ports that Russia has blocked.
The week of animation from May 16th to 20th
“I can definitely tell you that’s not true,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Thursday afternoon when asked about the Ukrainian allegation.
However, Kirby has not refuted later statements by Herashchenko – and confirmed by anonymous American officials to several news outlets – that the US is considering sending specialized anti-ship Harpoon missiles with a range of 200 miles in future arms shipments to Ukraine. Concerns have been raised about whether shipping these special weapons would provoke a Russian response against US ships or regional interests.
“We speak to the Ukrainians every day,” Kirby added, revealing that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to Ukraine’s Defense Secretary Oleksiy Reznikov earlier Friday. “When we have decisions, we come right here and issue a press release.”
Controlling the seas off Ukraine’s coast has become one of the main issues facing Western officials supporting the government in Kyiv against the Russian invaders. Despite some successes in recent weeks – notably the sinking of the Russian flagship Mosvka – pro-Moscow warships have managed to put pressure on Ukraine.
“From a maritime perspective, they remain capable of blockading major Ukrainian ports like Odessa,” Kirby said. “There’s nothing financially coming in yet.”
British intelligence claimed this week that Russian President Vladimir Putin did it fired an admiral Overseeing Black Sea Fleet operations after the sinking of the Moscow River, among other reshuffles in the Russian military leadership involved in the invasion of Ukraine.
Russian state news on Friday highlighted statements by fellow lawmakers in the Russian-occupied Crimea peninsula celebrating Russia’s control of the Black Sea and adjacent Sea of Azov.
And Moscow announced on Thursday that the Admiral Makarov frigate will take over as the Black Sea Fleet’s flagship after the Moskva sank – reportedly after a missile attack for which Ukraine has claimed credit.