Ukrainian military intelligence says offshore platforms in Black Sea retaken by Kyiv forces in ‘unique operation’.

The Ukrainian military said it has recaptured several strategic gas and oil drilling platforms from Russia in the Black Sea close to Crimea, which Moscow’s forces had occupied since 2015.

The recapture of the so-called Boyko Towers platforms, which was reported on Monday, takes back an asset that Russia seized during the annexation of Crimea and places Kyiv closer to retaking the occupied peninsula, according to Ukrainian military intelligence (GUR).

The GUR said on the Telegram messaging app that Ukrainian forces had retaken the drilling platforms in a “unique operation”.

“For Ukraine, regaining control of the Boyko Towers was of strategic importance and, as a result, Russia lost the ability to use them for military purposes,” the GUR said on Telegram.

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“Russia has been deprived of the ability to fully control the waters of the Black Sea, and this makes Ukraine many steps closer to regaining Crimea,” the agency added.

During the operation, there was a clash between Ukrainian special forces on boats and a Russian fighter jet, which was damaged and forced to retreat, the GUR said, adding that “valuable trophies” such as helicopter munitions and a radar system that can track the movement of ships in the Black Sea were seized at the platforms.

This undated handout photograph posted on September 11, 2023, on the Telegram account of the Defence Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine reportedly shows Ukrainian military members standing on an oil and gas drilling platform in the Black Sea. - Ukrainian forces have retaken control of an oil and gas drilling platform in the Black Sea that had been controlled by Moscow since 2015, Kyiv announced on September 11, 2023. "Ukraine regains control of the so-called 'Vyshki-Boyka' (platform)," Kyiv's military intelligence said in a statement. (Photo by Handout / Telegram / @DIUkraine / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO /TELEGRAM/ @DIUKRAINE " - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO /Telegram/ @DIUkraine " - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS /
Ukrainian military personnel standing on an oil and gas drilling platform in the Black Sea. Image released on September 11, 2023 [Handout/Telegram/@DIUkraine/AFP]

The Russian defence ministry did not make any immediate comment on the Ukrainian claim, but the ministry has previously reported that Russian warplanes destroyed several Ukrainian speedboats in the area in recent days.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, said early on Tuesday that regaining control of the Boyko Towers was important as the structures were used by Russian forces for “all sorts of monitoring, control, and surveillance sensors, expanding the Russian operational capabilities” in the Black Sea.

“The Defense Intelligence of Ukraine deprived the Russians of many monitoring and intelligence capabilities by knocking them out of these towers. This step was crucial not only in Ukraine’s struggle for the Black Sea but also for more space for its coastal and air operations,” he wrote.

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Russian military bloggers claimed on Monday that the platforms had been uninhabited for more than a year and that a Ukrainian operation to briefly land troops on the structures last month was not followed by a permanent military presence and came at a heavy cost to Ukraine’s forces.

Before Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula, Ukraine extracted a significant part of its natural gas from the Black Sea shelf, providing gas not only for Crimea but also to mainland regions of Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has promised to do all he can to liberate Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. The Ukrainian leader has urged international allies to support Kyiv’s efforts to retake the peninsula.

The retaking of the Black Sea gas and oil platforms follows a report by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence noting naval and air force skirmishes between Russian and Ukrainian forces at sea two weeks ago.

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Ukraine has struck several Russian-controlled platforms in fighting during the war and soldiers from both countries have occupied the structures periodically, the UK said in a military update on the war.

Along with drilling, the platforms can be used to land helicopters, as deployment bases and to position long-range missile systems.

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