After the Ukrainian victory in Kherson, some analysts believe that the next big thing on the war menu will be the battle for control over the Dniepr River. To help us figure out what happens next, I have this piece by reporter Oleg Isaichenko. He leads with the Pentagon promising the provision of 40 armored river cutters to the Ukraine. The accompanying photo actually shows a Russian cutter called the Buyan, but it gives an idea what the Ukrainian cutters will look like. In case anybody (like me) has trouble distinguishing between different types of boats.
The Dniepr River is now the front line separating Russia from NATO. Yes, my friends, all these years after the end of the Cold War, it has come to this. Now let’s see what happens next.
Military expert Ilya Kramnik is quoted: “We need to take this very seriously. The Americans are constantly developing and perfecting their naval technology. Their main rubric consists of: Reconnaissance – Control – Communications.”
In other words, we see the emergence of a River-based war. The Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) can base their fleet of cutters in the port city of Nikolaev; or in Liman on the Bug River; or in Ochakov.
The cutters can also be used in the planned storming of the Zaporozhie Nuclear Plant. Military analyst and First Rank Captain in Reserve Sergei Ishchenko comments: “The formation of a river flotilla seems like a logical step for the enemy. The Dniepr has become the front line, therefore the enemy is bound to reinforce it with effective military instruments, including armored cutters.”
Using such cutters, the Ukrainians would be able to land commandos on the Left Bank, while also repulsing Russian attempts to cross the river. Ishchenko believes that the Ukrainians will concentrate these cutters around the reservoirs, such as the ones in Kakhovka and Kiev. “There are a lot of islands and coves where they hide.”
What To Do?
Russia has various things in its own arsenal, like helicopters, for example. “We need to sink those cutters using our strike helicopters. We might also start thinking about sending in some of our own cutters, for example from the Caspian flotilla, to start patrolling the Dniepr. In the past, they were brought in several times to the Azov Sea. We need them on the Dniepr, where they would perform roughly the same functions as their Ukrainian counterparts.”
Problem: The Russian side has not been producing new cutters for a while, because there was no need for them. Until now. “Although cutters such as the Buyan, which are classed as “River to Sea” were originally intended mostly for river work. Which is why it has the kind of motor that is suitable for shallow waters. Everything that we have currently, we need to throw into the mix, preferably closer to the Kinburn Spit. I mean, it’s better than nothing.”
Next we hear the opinion of Captain of Third Rank Maxim Klimov: The Ukrainians started building their new Dniepr flotilla back in spring. “They also requisitioned civilian boats, adapting them for military needs. From our side, we didn’t do anything like that.” The good news is that the Ukrainian cutters are very vulnerable. They can be easily attacked and destroyed, using practically any available weapon. Strike helicopters are the most effective of all, but usually they have more important tasks to perform. “This experience that we have learned from the Special Military Operation, shows us that speed is more important than armor, both for attack and for defense. Therefore, we need to start using more effectively our means of discovery and attack, combining them into a single system. And it goes without saying that we need our own fleet of swift armored cutters, and also cargo-lifting and high-speed multi-purpose high-speed barges and ferries.”
On the other hand, maybe these Pentagon cutters are just all talk? wonders Captain First Rank Vasily Dandykin: “I’m not sure how they plan to bring these cutters in. The southern part of the River is under our fire control. Even if they try to sail them in via the Danube — all the same, this water is under the umbrella of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation.” [yalensis: Maybe the Americans would disassemble them, transport them in, in pieces, and then reassemble in some boatyard near the River? Or is that a dumb idea?]
Nonetheless, Dandykin does not recommend complacency, he believes that the threat is real. “Taking into account the realignment of forces on the Dniepr, we really do need to think seriously about moving those Buyan type cutters from the Caspian to the Dniepr. The FSB also has its own private fleet of cutters which can be used in case of necessity.”
And A Corvette Too? You Shouldn’t Have!
That’s the end of that article, but I might as well throw in this piece too, although it is over a month old. Which is like an eternity. I had saved the link to the piece, but never got around to reviewing it. But since it also has a naval theme…
Well, the gist is that Turkey built a brand new corvette for Ukraine. And a fine-looking boat it is too, yar! This is the Ukrainian fleet’s one and only corvette; and please don’t ask me what a corvette actually is. To me it looks like a luxury yacht, but I am sure it has a lot of military bells and whistles.
The Turks started building this boat for the Ukrainians back in September of 2021, a few months before the start of this war. The Ukrainians had already picked out a name for it: The Hetman Ivan Mazepa. As is their wont, honoring the name of a traitor and loser, instead of a winner. Bad omen, if you ask me. Some of the commenters to that piece predict a Kalibr in its future.
Be that as it may… Just over a month ago, Sunday October 2, 2022, Ukraine’s beautiful First Lady, Elena Zelenskaya went to Turkey to participate in the launching ceremony, where the Mazepa was rolled into the water. (I suppose she cracked a bottle of champagne against it, or something like that.)
That’s it for that story, so I don’t know where the Mazepa is now, did it ever make it to the port of Odessa?