Once a Navy

Anyone following the demise of the Ukrainian Navy? Twelve thousand of its 14,500 personnel were on the Crimea peninsula. Excluding defectors to the Russian side, of which there were more than a few, it appears that all other Ukrainian naval personnel have been or will be allowed to return to Ukraine. This includes Captian Yuri Fedash, the commander of the Ukraine minesweeper Cherkassy. He and his ship’s story (featured in todays WSJ) is rather interesting. The Cherkassy had been able to avoid capture by Russian forces by continually moving in the Donuzlav Lake and narrow gulf separating it from the Black Sea. Finally, yesterday, after weeks of maneuvers and close calls, Russian forces were able to board and capture the vessel. Upon release captain Fedash stated that the Russians had been polite and even “respected the Cherkassy’s long resistance.” It is a somewhat inspiring story in the midst of a larger and less inspiring regional struggle with geopolitical implications.

As for the Ukraine Navy, what is left of it has been repositioned to Naval Base North in Odessa, including the Krivak III-class frigate the Hetman Sagaidachny. It escaped being blockaded and taken over by Russian forces because it was not docked but rather returning from an Indian Ocean anti-piracy mission and was able to divert to Naval Base North rather than continue to its home station on Crimea. It is now the core of Ukraine’s surviving navy. The positive news here for the Ukraine navy, is that with much of its personnel back on Ukraine sovereign territory, ships can be replaced. There is a significant global naval export industry and lots of nations are trimming their fleets. Even if Ukraine can not afford to purchase modern naval vessels it is quite possible that they could be gifted ships from sympathetic nations.

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