That was the end of Putin's embarrassing blitzkrieg.
September is a tricky month. It seems sunny and still quite warm. Sometimes a blue sea flashes through the city noise, through the gaps between the leaves and pine needles. This is the Crimea. The velvet season continues. A woman is driving in the centre of Sevastopol, sharing the breaking news with someone. What a holiday! Just now, somewhere very close, a rocket exploded. Smoke covers the sky. The fire brigade is on its way. Ambulances are on the way. One can't count them. How many wounded there are!
The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, having assessed the situation, rushed to calm the witnesses and prevent possible panic. In fact, the AFU launched a missile attack on Sevastopol. Two missiles hit the headquarters building of the Black Sea Fleet. There were no civilian casualties. One serviceman was wounded. In general, it was an ordinary case, nothing serious. Later it was clarified: the serviceman was not wounded, but missing. He could be in a shelter, or even absent without leave. He'll be back. He'll be in the brig. He'll continue his service.
The local governor also rushed to make his mark on the backdrop of the disaster. An instruction was issued on how all holidaymakers and other people should behave in the event of a missile attack. The document of the century. The decisive paragraph left little hope. "Take shelter in a room with load-bearing walls and sit on the floor against a load-bearing wall at a considerable distance from the windows". That's good advice. It is the only way to survive a sudden air raid. In Soviet times, too, there was a clear algorithm of behaviour in the event of the threat of a nuclear explosion. The advice is no less useful. Cover yourself with a white sheet and crawl confidently towards the cemetery. But that was just an anecdote. Here it's an instruction.
The Fleet Headquarters was hit at noon on Saturday. And on Monday there was another rumble. Only the municipal services were on duty. And the omnipresent governor rushed to reassure everyone: it's the local craftsmen who are blowing up the damaged structures of the destroyed headquarters. But despite the efforts of the authorities, the former relaxed atmosphere did not return. In an instant, the deep rear became the front line.
On the same day, Ukrainian special forces spread their own information about the missile attack on the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet. According to the latest data, 34 officers were killed and 105 wounded in the attack. Rear Admiral Viktor Sokolov, commander of the Black Sea Fleet, was among the dead. As Kyrylo Budanov, head of the AFU's intelligence service, said earlier, the operation had been prepared for a long time. It involved not only the military, but also partisans and local residents. The operation was codenamed Crab Trap. Of course, the results of the operation are still to be clarified. Some details will emerge in the coming days. And some - only after the war. But one way or another, it is a crushing blow to the Black Sea Fleet, which has completely forgotten its naval traditions in this inglorious campaign. And it has taken on the ignominious role of punisher at the will of the Kremlin Chekist. The residential quarters of Odesa, Kherson, Mykolaiv and other Ukrainian cities will never forget the sound of the missiles coming from the Black Sea.
A detailed list of the crimes of this obliging fleet will be announced at a future tribunal. And the classic excuse of "I was following orders" lost its salutary qualities at the time of the Nuremberg Trials.
What did the command expect when it met such a frivolous bunch at fleet headquarters? Were they sure that Sevastopol was a deep rear? Or had they simply forgotten that in occupied territory the occupier is always in the crosshairs? For many, this meeting was the last step in their careers. And none of the ministry's stories about missing servicemen will fool anyone. There is a huge hole in the top command of the fleet.
Russian publications on the subject insist that the losses will be compensated immediately. There are perfectly trained personnel of all specialities and ranks. And the combat effectiveness of the fleet will not be affected. Yes, of course! But why should holes on the frontlines be hastily filled with new recruits? What does it mean to hastily train a simple trench infantryman with Vanka the platoon leader? Besides, it's more complicated to train naval professionals. Especially the top command staff. They are sitting on their perches, waiting for Putin to call them. And he will. He will. Because he has a plan. And the plan will be followed.
In the first year of this war, a fierce ship approached the island of Zmeiny. And someone shouted: "I am a Russian ship!..." It was an ultimatum - formidable, imperial. The Ukrainian border guard replied clearly: "Russian ship, go to...". That was the end of Putin's embarrassing blitzkrieg. It was time to wind down.
In the waters of the Black Sea, an inescapable keelboat column is already forming. At the head, of course, is the flagship - the mighty and formidable cruiser Moskva. There are various ships in this formation. Submarines. Even boats. The column is completed by a large landing ship with the proud name of Minsk. Everyone thought this ship would be the last in line. But no. Last Saturday, the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, white as a motor ship, came up confidently and took its rightful place. Everything has its time. Cast off all ropes. The squadron of ghosts is leaving the Crimea.
And no one will change its course.
Uladzimir Khalip, especially for Charter97.org