Evidence Of Russia's Planned Amphibious Landings in Ukraine
Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko has shown plans for an amphibious landing near Odessa on Ukraine's southern coast. It is an apparent intelligence blunder as no landings have been reported there.
The landings themselves are not a surprise. Since Russia sailed six large amphibious landing ships to the Black Sea, analysts have suspected the overall plan. I have discussed it on Twitter Spaces with Sim Tack and Dave Owen, and in Covert Shores updates. For he past few days we have believed that the landings were imminent.
But they never came (at least not yet). And no one can of expected that the Belarusian regime would provide the corroboration.
Belarus is on Ukraine's northeastern border. It has played host to Russian forces for the invasion and their troops are taking part. It may be part of a debt created when Putin propped up the Lukashenko regime following the country's controversial election.
At a meeting of his security council, Lukashenko showed a large map (video on Twitter). It highlighted axis of advance which were generally consistent with observed movements. Significantly for the naval angle however, the landings near Odessa were shown. There is a thrust shown heading inland and up to the Transnistria region of Moldova. Transnistria is a Russian-backed unrecognized breakaway state along the Moldova-Ukraine border.
Russian Navy Ropucha Class landing ship passing through the Dardanelles on Feb 8th. Photograph copyright Yörük Işık (Twitter).
One theory for why the landings near there haven't materialized is mutiny. There have been reports today (Twitter) that marines from Crimea refused to attack Odesa. Apparently they were already sailing to the landing zone. At the time of writing these reports haven't been confirmed and should be treated with typical caution. But the authors are unlikely to have been aware of the Lukashenko map, so it is a very big coincidence. It seems to fit the story. We will see.
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The merits of a landing are a separate question. An opposed landing, where the defenders have heavy anti-tank weapons, seems like suicide. Whether it involves swimming vehicles or traditional on-beach delivery.
Similarly any landing which is isolated from overland assaults seems untenable. We have seen Russian airborne forces overextended and they paid the price. The same would apply here.
However the complication here is the role that Transnistria might play. Until this map I had primarily viewed the anticipated landing as being about Odessa. The port on Ukraine's southern coast is a strategic. But the Lukashenko map shows the axis of advance going north and then west towards Transnistria. This could face less resistance and once there, they are on friendly territory and can presumably get resupplied from there.
We will naturally hear suggestions that the map was a deliberate deception. I think that this is unlikely, as it presents Lukashenko as the fool. Would he be willing to play that role? I think that it is much more likely that the map was prepared at a time when it was assumed that the landing would have happened. Bad operational security on a national scale. I'll leave this here.
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