Seizing the Black Sea port of Odesa has long been considered a strategic goal of the Russian forces in southern Ukraine. Military expert Dr Marina Miron, of the Centre for Military Ethics at King’s College London, has previously told Express.co.uk that Odesa is “the last missing piece in the puzzle” for Putin in the region.
But the MoD cast doubt on Kremlin claims that Russian forces had taken out anti-ship missiles and a warship in the Black Sea port of Odesa over the weekend.
Moscow claimed on Sunday that it had successfully struck the ship and a weapons storage facility in Odesa with high-precision missiles.
But the Ukrainian military said the missiles did not cause any damage to preparations in Odesa to resume grain exports to the rest of the world, in accordance with a deal struck last week.
The MoD wrote: “On 24 July 2022, Russian cruise missiles hit the dock-side in Ukraine’s Odesa Port.
“The Russian MoD claimed to have hit a Ukrainian warship and a stockpile of anti-ship missiles.
“There is no indication that such targets were at the location the missiles hit.”
The MoD described Russia’s view of anti-ship missiles as a “key threat” as Moscow looks to control the Black Sea.
It added: “Russia almost certainly perceives anti-ship missiles as a key threat which is limiting the effectiveness of their Black Sea Fleet.
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“However, Russia’s targeting processes are highly likely routinely undermined by dated intelligence, poor planning, and a top-down approach to operations.”
Taking Odesa is complicated by the fact the port is “mined”, Dr Miron told Express.co.uk earlier this month.
She said: “As far as Odesa is concerned, right now the issue is that the ports are mined.
“Russia wants to get them demined – for obvious reasons, Ukraine is resisting.”
However, Dr Miron described Odesa as part of a larger plan “to completely ensure that Ukraine – or whatever is left of Ukraine – is completely landlocked”.
She added: “[Putin] will push militarily.
“He will try to take as much territory as they can hold to leave Ukraine landlocked and without any military capability, so there wouldn’t be the slimmest chance of Ukraine ever joining NATO.”