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Black Sea Fleet sleeve ensign.

The Black Sea Fleet ( ) is a large sub-unit of the Russianmarker (and formerly Soviet) Navy, operating in the Black Seamarker and the Mediterranean Seamarker since the late 18th century. It is based in various harbors of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azovmarker.


Imperial Russia

The Black Sea Fleet is considered to have been founded by Prince Potemkin on May 13, 1783, together with its principal base, the city of Sevastopolmarker. Formerly commanded by such legendary admirals as Dmitriy Senyavin and Pavel Nakhimov, it is a fleet of enormous historical and political importance for Russia. In 1790, Russian naval forces under the command of admiral Fyodor Ushakov defeated the Turkish fleet at the Battle of Kerch Strait.

From 1841 onwards the fleet was confined to the Black Sea by the London Straits Convention.

After losing the Crimean War by Paris treaty in 1856 Russian Black Sea was commanded to be a demilitarized zone like the Island of Ålandmarker in the Baltic Sea. Paris treaty is still honoured by Finland but not by Russian Government.

The crew of the battleship Potemkin revolted in 1905 soon after the Navy's defeat in the Russo-Japanese War. Lenin wrote that the Potemkin uprising had had a huge importance in terms of being the first attempt at creating the nucleus of a revolutionary army.

During World War I, there were a number of encounters between the Russian and Ottoman navies in the Black Sea. The Ottomans initially had the advantage due to their having under command the German battleship SMS Goeben, but after the two modern Russian dreadnoughts and had been built in Nikolayevmarker, the Russians took command of the sea until the Russian government collapsed in November 1917. German submarines of the Constantinople Flotilla and Turkish light forces would though continue to raid and harass Russian shipping until the war's end.

Soviet Navy

During the Russian Civil War the vast majority of the Black Sea Fleet was scuttled or interned by the Western Allies (see Wrangel's fleet). A few ships were salvaged in the 1920s and a large scale new construction programme began in the 1930s.

The Fleet was commanded by Vice Admiral F.S. Oktyabrskiy on the outbreak of war with Germany in June 1941, the Fleet gave a credible account of itself, along with the Red Army forces that fought alongside it, during the Siege of Odessa and the Battle of Sevastopolmarker. (See Black Sea Campaigns for more details).

Along with the Northern Fleet, the Black Sea Fleet provided ships for the 5th Operational Squadron in the Mediterranean, which confronted the United States Navy during the Arab-Israeli wars, notably during the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

However, its military importance has degraded since the collapse of the Soviet Unionmarker, due to significant funding cuts and, to a degree, the loss of its major missions.

Earlier, Turkeymarker's decision to join NATOmarker (putting the Bosporus Straitmarker under Western control) and invention of long-range nuclear weapons have dramatically decreased the strategic value of any naval activity in the Black Seamarker. The fleet has been free of nuclear weapons since the early 1990s.

However, recent local conflicts in the Caucasus region (particularly in Georgiamarker) which obliged Moscow to mobilise the Black Sea Fleet off the coast of Georgia, and the development of oil transit in the region are forcing Russia to support the fleet as much as possible.

Partition of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet

In 1992, the major part of the personnel, armaments and coastal facilities of the Fleet fell under formal jurisdiction of the newly-independent Ukrainemarker as they were situated on Ukrainian territory. Later the Ukrainian government ordered the establishment of its own Ukrainian Navy based on the Black Sea Fleet; several ships and ground formations declared themselves Ukrainian.

However, this immediately led to conflicts with the majority of officers who appeared to be loyal to Russia. Simultaneously, pro-Russian separatist groups became active in the local politics of Ukraine's Autonomous Republic of Crimeamarker and the Sevastopol municipalitymarker where the major naval bases were situated, and started coordinating their efforts with pro-Moscowmarker seamen.

Joint Fleet and its partition

To ease the tensions, the two governments signed an interim treaty, establishing a joint Russo-Ukrainian Black Sea Fleet under bilateral command (and Soviet Navy flag) until a full-scale partition agreement could be reached. Formally, the Fleet's Commander was to be appointed by a joint order of the two countries' Presidents. However, Russia still dominated the Fleet unofficially, and a Russian admiral was appointed as Commander; the majority of the fleet personnel adopted Russian citizenship. Minor tensions between the Fleet and the new Ukrainian Navy (such as electricity cut-offs and sailors' street-fighting) continued.

In 1997, Russia and Ukraine signed the Partition Treaty, establishing two independent national fleets and dividing armaments and bases between them. Ukraine also agreed to lease major parts of its new bases to the Russian Black Sea Fleet until 2017. However, the treaty appeared to be far from perfect: permanent tensions on the lease details (including often reported issue of lighthouses) control continue to this day. The Fleet's main base is still situated in the Crimean port city of Sevastopolmarker. However, the current Ukrainian government has declared that the lease will not be extended and that the fleet will have to leave Sevastopol by 2017.

Georgia in the Fleet partition

The newly-independent Republic of Georgiamarker, which also hosted several bases of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet when it was the Georgian SSR, also claimed a share of the Fleet, including 32 naval vessels formerly stationed at Georgia's Black Sea port of Potimarker. Not a CIS member at that time, Georgia was not, however, included in the initial negotiations in January 1992. Additionally, some low-importance bases situated in the Russian-backed breakaway autonomy of Abkhaziamarker soon escaped any Georgian control. In 1996, Georgia resumed its demands, and the Russian refusal to allot Georgia a portion of the ex-Soviet navy became another bone of contention in the progressively deteriorating Georgian-Russian relations. This time, Ukraine endorsed Tbilisimarker's claims, turning over several patrol boats to the Georgian Navy and starting to train Georgian crews, but was unable to include in the final fleet deal a transfer of the formerly Poti-based vessels to Georgia. Later, the rest of the Georgian share was decided to be ceded to Russia in return for diminution of debt.

Since the 2008 South Ossetia war Russian military officials refused to let the Black Sea Fleet take part in any joint naval exercises involving Georgian warships. However, such a statement has little meaning since the Georgian Navy has ceased to exist (early 2009 it was merged with the Georgian coast guard).

Recent history

Combat operations

Russia mobilised part of the fleet towards Georgia'smarker separatist Abkhaziamarker region during the 2008 South Ossetia war which resulted in a skirmish with the Georgian Navy. As a result, Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko announced that the Black Sea Fleet would henceforth need permission to cross the Ukrainian border and go to Sevastopol, to which Russia retorted that the the President of Russian Federation and not Ukraine commands the Black Sea Fleet. Yushchenko's announcement was without force and deployed units of the Russian Black Sea Fleet returned to their home moorings without incident.

Black Sea Fleet and Ukraine

As a consequence of Ukraine's current government announcing that the lease of Russian naval bases on the Crimea will not be extended beyond 2017, the Russian Black Fleet is expanding its base in Novorossiyskmarker. In July 2007, the Navy Commander announced that the new base will be ready in 2012. Under the 1997 bilateral treaty, Russia currently pays $98 million annually and the treaty provides for an extension by mutual agreement. Russian officials have repeatedly said they would like to extend the lease.

In June 2009 the head of the Ukrainian Security Service said that after December 13, 2009 all officers from the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) represented at the (Russian) Black Sea Fleet must leave Ukraine, from then the Security Service of Ukraine will ensure the safety of the (Russian) Black Sea Fleet and Russian sailors on Ukrainian territory. According to the Russian Foreign Ministrymarker the employees of the FSB, who are working at the Black Sea Fleet facilities, are staying on the Ukrainian territory "in line with bilateral agreements".

In October 2009 and November the (Russian) Black Sea Fleet complained about inspection of (non-boat) transport vehicles owned by the fleet by the Sevastopol State Auto Inspectorate and Ukrainian security officers, calling them "disrespect for the status of the Russian military units and an unfriendly step aimed at worsening the Russian-Ukrainian relations".

List of Black Sea Fleet ships

30th Surface Warship Division

11th Anti-submarine Ship Brigade
# Type Name Class Year
121 Guided Missile Cruiser Moskva Slava 1983
713 ASW Cruiser Kerch Kara 1974
707 ASW Cruiser Ochakov Kara 1973
810 ASW Destroyer Smetlivyy Kashin 1969
801 Guided Missile Frigate Ladnyy Krivak I 1978
808 Guided Missile Frigate Pitlivyy Krivak II 1979

197th Amphibious Ship Brigade
# Type Name Class Year
152 Landing Ship Nikolay Filchenkov Alligator 1975
148 Landing Ship Orsk Alligator 1968
150 Landing Ship Saratov Alligator 1966
151 Landing Ship Azov Ropucha-II 1990
142 Landing Ship Novocherkassk Ropucha-I 1987
158 Landing Ship Tsezar Kunikov Ropucha-I 1986
156 Landing Ship Yamal Ropucha-I 1988

247th Submarine Battalion

# Type Name Class Year Base
554 Attack Submarine Alrosa (ex-B-871) Kilo 1990 Sevastopolmarker
572 Attack Submarine B-380 (Under Repair) Tango 1980 Sevastopolmarker

68th Coastal Defence Warship Brigade

400th Antisubmarine Ship Battalion
# Type Name Class Year
059 ASW Corvette Alexandrovets Grisha I 1982
053 ASW Corvette Povorino Grisha III 1989
071 ASW Corvette Suzdalets Grisha III 1983
064 ASW Corvette Muromets Grisha-III 1983
060 ASW Corvette Vladimirets Project 11451 / Mukha class 1984

418th Minesweeper Battalion
# Type Name Class Year
913 Seagoing Minesweeper Kovrovets Natya I 1974
911 Seagoing Minesweeper Ivan Golubets Natya I 1973
912 Seagoing Minesweeper Turbinist Natya I 1972
909 Seagoing Minesweeper Vice Admiral Zhukov Natya I 1977

41st Missile Boat Brigade

166th Small Missile Boat Battalion (Novorossiyskmarker)
# Type Name Class Year
615 Guided Missile Corvette Bora Dergach 1988
616 Guided Missile Corvette Samum Dergach 1991
620 Guided Missile Corvette Shtyl Nanuchka-III 1976
617 Guided Missile Corvette Mirazh Nanuchka-III 1983

295th Sulinsky Missile Boat Battalion
# Type Name Class Year
966 Missile Boat R-44 Matka Mod disc
955 Missile Boat R-60 Tarantul-III Mod 1985
962 Missile Boat R-71 Tarantul-II Mod 1985
952 Missile Boat R-109 Tarantul-III 1991
953 Missile Boat R-239 Tarantul-III 1991
954 Missile Boat Ivanovets Tarantul-III 1988

84th Novorossiysk Coastal Defence Brigade

# Type Name Class Year
054 Small Antisubmarine Ship Eysk Grisha-III 1987
055 Small Antisubmarine Ship Kasimov Grisha-III 1984
901 Seagoing Minesweeper Zheleznyakov Gorya class minesweeper 1988
770 Seagoing Minesweeper Valentin Pikul' Natya I mod 2001
426 Base Minesweeper Mineralnyye Vody Sonya class minesweeper 1990
438 Base Minesweeper Leytenant Ilyin Sonya class minesweeper 1982

Black Sea Fleet Naval Aviation - HQ Sevastopol

  • 872nd Independent Anti-submarine Helicopter Regiment - HQ at Kacha - Ka-27;
  • 917th Independent Composite Air Regiment - HQ at Kacha - An-2, An-12, An-26, Be-12, Mi-8;
  • 43rd Independent Naval Shturmovik (Assault) Air Squadron - HQ at Gvardeyskoye - Su-24;

See also


  1. Black Sea Fleet (BSF) Morskoyo Flota ( Naval Force)
  2. John Erickson, The Road to Stalingrad, Cassel Military Paperbacks, 2003, p.205
  3. On, Military Thought article on Soviet Mediterranean squadron air defence, accessed 30 May 2008
  5. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Newsline. Vol. 1, No. 42, Part I, 30 May 1997
  6. Russia's Black Sea Fleet rules out joint drills with Georgia, UNIAN (June 17, 2009)
  7. Navy to Merge with Coast Guard, FINANCIAL (December 3, 2008)
  9. Russia denies naval bases report, BBC News (January 16, 2009)
  10. Yulia Tymoshenko: Russian Black Sea Fleet will not remain in Crimea, Personal web site of Yulia Tymoshenko (June 25, 2009)
  11. Moscow News - News - Russia’s New Black Sea Base Complete by 2012
  12. Russia hopes to keep naval base in Ukraine, Reuters, (July 14, 2009)
  13. Kremlin promises new Black Sea Fleet base by 2016, Reuters, (July 14, 2009)
  14. Russia fleet 'may leave Ukraine', BBC News, (October 18, 2008)
  15. All FSB officers working at Russian Black Sea Fleet must leave Ukraine –SBU, UNIAN (June 17, 2009)
  16. Russia says FSB to stay in Crimea, UNIAN (June 18, 2009)
  17. Black Sea Fleet: Black Sea Fleet concerned by checks by Ukrainian security agencies, Kyiv Post (October 14, 2009)
  18. Russian Black See Fleet slams Ukraine authorities over trucks incident, Kyiv Post (November 3, 2009)

Further reading

External links

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