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The Ukrainian Naval Forces (Ukrainian: Військово-Морські Сили України, ВМСУ, Viys’kovo-Mors’ki Syly Ukrayiny, VMSU) is the navy of Ukraine and part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Ukrainian Naval Forces
Військово-Морські Сили України
Emblem of the Ukrainian Navy.svg
Emblem of the Ukrainian Navy
August 1992 – present
Country Ukraine
Size6.500 men[1]

1 frigate[1]
1 corvette[1] 4 landing craft 1 minesweeper 12 patrol boat

18 auxiliary vessels10 airplanes[1]
Garrison/HQOdessa (HQ in 2014–present)
Sevastopol (HQ in 1992–2014)
Donuzlav (1992–2014)
ColorsBlue, Gold         
MarchMarch of the VMS of Ukraine (Марш ВМС України)
AnniversariesNavy Day (every first Sunday of July[2] From 1997 till 2011 August 1, from 2012 till 2015 last Sunday in July).[3][4][5]
Battle honours
Vice admiral Ihor Voronchenko[6]
Naval ensignEnsign of Ukrainian Navy
Naval jackFlag of Ukraine.svg
Naval jack (1992)Naval Jack of Ukraine (1992).svg
Shoulder sleeve insignia (2016)НЗ ВМС.svg

It consists of five branches: surface forces, submarine forces, Navy aviation, coastal rocket-artillery and naval infantry.[7] The Navy numbers 6,500 people.[1] In 2007 and prior to the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea 15,470 people served the Ukrainian Navy.[1][8]

The headquarters of the Ukrainian Naval Forces was, until the 2014 Crimean crisis, located at Sevastopol in Crimea.[7] The Naval Forces of Ukraine were highly affected by the Crimea Crisis as majority of their units were stationed there. Ships that did not escape or were not deployed at the time lowered their flags and were interned. Russia began a process of returning the vessels but stopped, citing inability of Ukraine to retake possession and continued violence against Russians in the Donbass. The ships that were returned were the older models of the fleet that were deemed obsolete. For example, Russia chose not to return the corvettes Ternopil and Lutsk, both of which are some of the newest ships of the Ukrainian fleet. However, none of the Ukrainian naval units retained were absorbed into the Russian Navy.

Ukraine had been scheduling to rebuild its naval forces since 2005[9][10] by building the domestic project 58250, the first Ukrainian designed and built corvette, as well as ordering numerous patrol boats in 2013 from Willard Marine.[11][12] Ukraine has also restarted the production of its Gryuza River Armed Artillery Boat, which has been previously exported to Uzbekistan.[13]

The navy operates in the Black Sea basin (including Sea of Azov and Danube Delta).[7] Distant operations of the Ukrainian Navy are limited to multinational activities, such as Operation Active Endeavour and Operation Atalanta in the Mediterranean and Horn of Africa. It is unknown whether these operations are funded by Ukraine.


The Ukrainian Naval Forces trace their history to the Zaporizhian Sich Cossacks, who would frequently raid Ottoman settlements along the Black Sea coast. Cossacks used small ships called "chaikas" which were similar in design to Viking long ships. Although technologically inferior to the Turks the Cossacks had great success against their opponent. In 1614 the Cossack forces were able to raid, and destroy Trabzon. In 1615 the Cossacks were able to mount a raid on Istanbul itself, destroying several suburbs of the city. In 1616 a Cossack fleet was able to reach the Bosphorus, once again raiding the surrounding countryside. A Turkish fleet sent to destroy the Cossack forces was defeated in 1617. The Cossacks once again managed to mount an attack on Istanbul in 1625, forcing the Sultan to temporarily flee the capital. The Cossacks used several strategies to attack the larger Ottoman forces, such as positioning their ships during battle in a way that sun was always at their back. The Cossack ships were small with a low profile, making them hard to hit by cannon. Cossacks were typically armed with small arm muskets, and during battle had the goal of killing the crew and boarding the ship to take it over, rather than sinking the ship.[14]

The origins of the contemporary Ukrainian Naval Forces intertwined with the fate of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet and with the modern history of the Crimea. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union (1991), the administration of the Soviet Armed Forces passed to the Joint Armed Forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States for a transitional period pending agreement on the division of the ex-Soviet military between members of the former Soviet Union. Marshal of Aviation Yevgeny Shaposhnikov became commander of the Joint CIS Armed Forces command on 14 February 1992.

"Battle for the oath"Edit

On 6 December 1991 the Supreme Council of Ukraine (Verkhovnaya Rada) adopted a resolution on the laws of Ukraine "About the Defense of Ukraine" and "About the Armed Forces of Ukraine", as well as the text of a military oath. On the same day, in the parliament of Ukraine chamber, the Minister of Defense of Ukraine, Kostyantyn Morozov, became the first person to take the oath. On 10 December 1991 the Supreme Council of Ukraine ratified the Belavezha Accords. On 12 December 1991 the President of Ukraine issued ukase #4, ordering all military formations based in Ukraine to pledge allegiance by 20 January 1992. The vast majority of the Black Sea Fleet ignored the order. On 1 January 1992 the newspaper Vympyel of the Black Sea Fleet Filipp Oktyabrskiy Training unit (edited by Captain-Lieutenant Mykola Huk) published the military oath and the anthem of Ukraine in the Ukrainian language.

On 3 January 1992 Ukraine started the practical formation of its national armed forces. On 8 January 1992 the Officers' Assembly of the Black Sea Fleet appealed to all leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States to recognise the Black Sea Fleet as an operational-strategic formation and not subordinate to Ukraine. On 12 January 1992, the brigade of border troops in Balaklava (Sevastopol) became the first military formation to pledge allegiance to Ukraine. On 14 January 1992 the Governor of Sevastopol appealed to the Supreme Councils of both Ukraine and the Russian Federation, urging faster adoption of a decision on the status of the Black Sea Fleet. On 16 January 1992, an agreement between the participants of Commonwealth of Independent States was signed on the oath in strategic formations.[15] On 18 January 1992, the 3rd company of the divers school became the first formation of the Black Sea Fleet to pledge their allegiance to Ukraine, along with the Maritime Department of the Sevastopol Institute of Instrument Engineering. On the next day, forty-six naval pilots pledged their allegiance to Ukraine at the central square (Ploshcha Lenina) of Mykolaiv.

Black Sea Fleet military personnel previously under the oath of the Soviet Armed Forces did not hasten to pledge allegiance to the newly formed state. First Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Fleet Admiral Ivan Kapitanets issued a directive: "to apply severe sanctions, including dismissal from office and separation from service to officers, midshipmen, and warrant officers who create an unhealthy situation in military communities that are prone to treason and taking the oath of allegiance to Ukraine ". Nonetheless, on 26 January 1992 the 17th Brigade of Ships for the Guarding the Water Area of the Crimea Naval Base followed the example of the divers.[16] Right before the Soviet Army and Navy Day (23 February) on 22 February, the 880th Independent Naval Infantry Battalion of Black Sea Fleet pledged allegiance to Ukraine. The battalion had been recognized[by whom?] as the best formation of the fleet in 1991. The Main Navy Staff in Moscow issued an order to dissolve the battalion. After the incident, all military units of the Black Sea Fleet recruited exclusively Russians[citation needed].

From the beginning, relationships between the newly formed states of Russia Federation and the Republic of Ukraine were tense. In January 1992 the Supreme Soviet of Russia raised the question of the political status of Crimea (Crimean ASSR) and of the constitutionality of the 1954 decision to transfer of Crimean Oblast of the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR, accusing Nikita Khrushchev of treason against the Russian people. Although never annulled,[citation needed] many Russian parliamentarians refused to recognize the legal document, pointing out the procedural errors during its adoption. The Ukrainian side issued reminders of the number of international treaties and agreements between the two countries, such as the 19 November 1990 treaty between the Russian SFSR and the Ukrainian SSR, in which both sides recognized the territorial integrity of the other, as well as the Belavezha Accords (an agreement on creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States) of 8 December 1991 and the Alma-Ata Protocol of 21 December 1991.

Noticing not much reaction from the Black Sea Fleet command located on the territory of Ukraine, on 5 April 1992 the President of Ukraine issued Decree #209 "About urgent measures on development of the Armed Forces of Ukraine", which accused the Russian Federation and the Joint Armed Forces command of intervening in the internal affairs of Ukraine. On 6 April 1992, a session of the 6th Congress of People's Deputies of the Russian SFSR refused to accept the Belavezha agreement as previously ratified by the Supreme Council of the Russian SFSR (on 12 December 1991). Also, on 6 April 1992, the President of Ukraine appointed Borys Kozhyn as the Commander of Ukrainian Naval Forces. The next day, the President of Russia issued a Decree "On the transfer of the Black Sea Fleet under jurisdiction of the Russian Federation". On 9 April 1992, the effect of both decrees were suspended until the end of the Russian-Ukrainian talks.

Division of the Black Sea FleetEdit

Ukrainian Navy artillery boat Zhuk class U170 Skadovs'k off the Bay of Sevastopol, Crimea

In September 1991, an office of the Society of Ukrainian Officers was opened in Sevastopol on the initiative of Major Volodymyr Kholodyuk and captains-lieutenant Ihor Tenyukh and Mykola Huk.[16] The society become the initiator and nucleus of the organization of the Ukrainian Naval Forces. On 7 April 1992 at 17:00 37 officers of the administration and headquarters of the Crimean Naval Base (an administrative entity and not a physical "base") pledged their allegiance and loyalty to people of Ukraine. Rear Admiral Borys Kozhyn, who was in charge, was not present at that time of the event. He was in the office of Ivan Yermakov accepting a proposition of the First Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Council of Ukraine to become the commander of the future Ukrainian Naval Forces. On 8 April 1992 the Minister of Defense signed a directive "About creation of the Ukrainian Naval Forces". On 13 April 1992 an organizational group was established on creation of the Ukrainian Naval Forces, which upset the command of the Black Sea Fleet.

The current history of the Ukrainian Naval Forces began on 1 August 1992, when it was formally established by order of the President of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk. This was followed by a long and controversial partition of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet between newly independent Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

SKR-112 on 20 July 1992

One of the episodes of this process was the story of SKR-112 – effectively the first Ukrainian Navy ship.[17] On 20 July 1992, the crew of SKR-112 declared itself a Ukrainian ship and raised the Ukrainian flag. The Navy headquarters in Moscow considered this a mutiny and attempted to act accordingly. The ship left its base on the Crimean peninsula bound for Odessa, causing a chase and ramming attempts by ships still loyal to Moscow. Soon several other ships, auxiliary vessels, and coastal units of the Black Sea Fleet followed SKR-112's decision but with less violent outcomes.

It was only in 1997 that the ships and equipment of the Black Sea Fleet were officially divided between the two countries. The new Russian formation retained its historic name "Black Sea Fleet". Under the terms of a negotiated lease agreement it was also granted rights to use the majority of its bases on the Crimea Peninsula, Ukraine on a renewable ten-year lease basis at least until 2017. The newly established Ukrainian Naval Forces received dozens of vessels (mostly obsolete or inoperative, not unlike some of those retained by Russia) and some shore-based infrastructure. However, the Russian Navy lost several important facilities, most notably the NITKA (Russian acronym for "Scientific testing simulator for shipborne aviation") naval aviation training facility in Saky, and the special forces base in Ochakiv. The process of fleet division remained painful since many aspects of the two navies' co-existence were under-regulated, causing recurring conflicts.

The Krivak III-class frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy is the current flagship of the Ukrainian Navy.[18]

Since 1997 due to lack of financing and neglect most of the Ukrainian naval units have been scrapped or poorly maintained. By 2009, only the frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy, originally built to be a Soviet Border Guards ship, was capable of long endurance missions.[19]

Joint exercises of the Ukrainian Naval Forces and the Russian Black Sea Fleet resumed after a seven-year interval in 2010.[20]

Most of the Ukrainian naval assets, as those of the other branches of the armed forces, comprise mainly Soviet-era equipment; no major plan for modernization has yet emerged, except for a new corvette design completed in 2009 but not built.[17]

On 19 December 2008, United States Ambassador to Ukraine William B. Taylor, Jr. stated that Ukrainian Defense Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov and US Defense Secretary Robert Gates were discussing the purchase by Ukraine of one to three U.S. Navy frigates.[21]

In December 2009, the design for a new corvette (designed exclusively by Ukraine and to be built at Ukrainian shipyards) for the Ukrainian Naval Forces was completed.[22] That month the Ukrainian defense ministry and Chernomorsky Shipyard (Mykolaiv) signed a contract upon results of the governmental tender for corvettes. The Shipbuilding Research and Design Center (Mykolaiv) was selected the project developer.

If built, the ship was supposed to operate in the Black and the Mediterranean seas; her endurance would be 30 days, displacement 2,500 tons. Leading European arms manufacturers like DCNS, MBDA, and EuroTorp were to deliver weapons for the project. Commissioning of the lead ship was scheduled for 2016. It was planned to build four corvettes before 2021. According to the corvette construction program approved by Ukrainian government in March 2011, overall amount of program financing till 2021 would be about UAH 16.22 billion. Given the bankrupt state of the Ukrainian economy, as of 2016 the completion of this project is uncertain.[citation needed]

Anti-piracy operations in SomaliaEdit

A Ukrainian ship carrying military cargo was hijacked off the coast of Somalia on 23 September 2008. The ship was released on 6 February 2009. All commercial news sources reported that the vessel was released after a ransom has been paid, Ukrainian officials, however, stated that special forces eliminated the pirates and retook the ship.[23] In October 2013 Ukraine deployed its flagship, the frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy, as part of NATO's Operation Ocean Shield anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden. The ship was deployed for a 3-month mission and operated alongside the Norwegian frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen, the Royal Danish Naval support ship HDMS Esbern Snare, and the US Navy's frigate USS De Wert.[24]

The Naval Forces of Ukraine once again deployed Hetman Sahaydachniy with an anti-submarine Ka-27 helicopter aboard to the coast of Somalia as part of the European Union's Operation Atlanta on 3 January 2014.[25] The ship was recalled on 3 March 2014 to Ukraine in response to the Crimea Crisis.

2014 Crimean crisisEdit

Prior to the Crimea Crisis Ukraine maintained a very modest naval force for a nation that lacked shores with any of the world's oceans. In the 2014 Crimean crisis, Russia annexed Crimea, where the majority of the bases of the Ukrainian Navy were located. Twelve thousand of Ukraine's 15,450 Navy personnel were based in Crimea[citation needed]. Russia took control of at least 12 of Ukraine's 17 ships. The naval base north of Odessa became the main operational Ukrainian Naval base. Ukraine also lost control of its Navy's main underground ammunition-storage site at the Inkerman valley, outside Sevastopol, as well as of its helicopter-repair facilities. The Navy's 750-strong 1st Naval Infantry Battalion at Feodosia was arrested and its equipment seized.[26] Ukraine temporarily lost 51 ships, mostly auxiliaries, to Russia as the majority were stationed in Crimea. Most were returned to Ukraine after a brief internment. The fleet currently has 11, mostly small, operational ships. The main fleet force consists of one frigate commissioned in 1993 and four corvettes. Russia also returned a Polnocny-class landing ship to Ukraine restoring Ukraine's amphibious assault capabilities.[27]

The Ukrainian Naval Infantry were equally affected by the crisis as Russian forces besieged the marines within their bases. Russia eventually confiscated all military equipment of the naval infantry stationed in Crimea. This was also the fate of Ukrainian Naval Aviation as all their assets on the peninsula were confiscated as well, several planes and helicopters did manage to make their way to mainland Ukraine prior to Russia fully taking over the region. The 10th Saki Naval Aviation Brigade, controlling all the Ukrainian Navy's air units, managed to get a number of its aircraft airborne to bases in mainland Ukraine on 5 March 2014.[28] However, more than a dozen aircraft and helicopters undergoing maintenance had to be abandoned.

On 8 April 2014 an agreement was reached between Russia and Ukraine to return interned vessels to Ukraine and "for the withdrawal of an undisclosed number of Ukrainian aircraft seized in Crimea".[29] At the time Russian Navy sources claimed the Ukrainian ships were "not operational because they are old, obsolete, and in poor condition".[29] Russia returned 35 ships but unilaterally suspended the return of Ukrainian Navy materials from Crimea to Ukraine proper because/after Ukraine did not renew its unilaterally declared ceasefire on 1 July 2014 in the War in Donbass.[30][31] 16 minor auxiliary ships are hence yet to return to Ukraine proper.[31]

The remaining Ukrainian naval forces continued to patrol the nation's border after being forced out of Crimea. The majority of the forces regrouped in Odessa with the coast guard having relocated its relatively small forces to Mariupol on the Azov Sea as well. The frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy, recalled from a deployment along the Somalian coast was forced to deploy from its port in Odessa and intercept Russian naval vessels crossing into Ukraine's waters on 14 March 2014.[32]

Defections to RussiaEdit

When Crimea was annexed by Russia, a number of Ukrainian Navy servicemen left the service for Russia. Among those were members of the upper echelon of command of the Ukrainian Navy. The Ukrainian Navy compiled and released a list of the officers who left the Ukrainian Navy for Russia, calling their actions treasonous.[33]

  • Vice Admiral Sergei Yeliseyev, a first deputy commander.
  • Rear Admiral Dmitriy Shakuro, a first deputy commander and chief of staff for the Ukrainian Navy.
  • Rear Admiral Denis Berezovsky, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Navy for one day, now a Black Sea Fleet deputy commander and chief of the combat training directorate.
  • Colonel Sergei Tarkhov, a chief of staff assistant in organization and sustainment of international relations.
  • Michman Sergei Gorbachov, a sergeant major of the Ukrainian Navy.
  • Administrative command - 5 officers.
  • Operation command - 17 officers.
  • Intelligence command - 8 officers.
  • Finance - 6 officers.

Armed Conflict in the DonbassEdit

Following the political coup in Kyiv and the annexation of Crimea, pro-Russian separatists emerged in Donetsk and Luhask oblasts demanding independence from the rest of Ukraine.[34] Some coast guard forces that were stationed in Crimea relocated to Mariupol where they resumed patrolling the national border.[35] Separatists have been active in the Sea of Azov, which caused incidents with the coast guard.[36]

Special Purpose units of the navy are reported to have taken part to combat the separatists. On 18 August 2014 Alex Zinchenko of the 73rd Naval Center of Special Operations was the first member of the Ukrainian Navy killed during the War in Donbass while conducting an operation near Donetsk.[37]

On 25 November 2018 three Ukrainian navy vessels who attempted to redeploy from the Black Sea port Odessa to the Sea of Azov port Berdyansk were captured by the Russian FSB security service during the Kerch Strait incident.[38][39]

Current roleEdit

Ukrainian Navy Gurza-M class boat, Odessa

The Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are tasked with the defense of the sovereignty and state interests of Ukraine at sea. They are required to neutralize enemy naval groups in their operational zone both alone and with other branches of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and to provide assistance from the sea to the Ground Forces during their operations. Main tasks of the Navy of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are the:[7]

  • creation and maintenance of combat forces on a level sufficient to deter maritime aggression;
  • neutralization of enemy naval forces;
  • destruction of enemy transportation;
  • support of the landing of amphibious forces and fight against enemy amphibious forces;
  • maintenance of a beneficial operational regime in the operational zone;
  • defense of its bases, sea lines of communications;
  • protection of submarine space within the territorial sea;
  • protection of the merchant fleet, maritime oil and gas industry, and other state maritime activity;
  • assistance to the Army in their conduct of operations (military actions) along maritime axes;
  • participation in peacekeeping operations.

List of CommandersEdit

Standard of the Commander-in-Chief

Ranks and insigniaEdit


Structure of the Ukrainian Navy (incl. major surface combatants) in 2017


The navy has been highly affected by Crimea's occupation by Russian Federation as the majority of Ukraine's ships were stationed in Crimea. Ukraine had developed plans to rebuild their naval capability even before the crisis by planning to build 4-10 new corvettes at the Mykolaiv Shipyard.[44] This was one of the Soviet Union's largest shipyards and it built Russia and China's only operational aircraft carriers. After the referendum in Crimea, Ukraine refused to import arms from Russia for its newly developing ships, thus it is unclear whether weapons for project 58250 as Ukraine dubbed it, will be built internally in Ukraine or imported from another country.[11]

Ukraine placed an order for five US-made patrol boats in October 2013, prior to the Ukrainian crisis. In February it was announced that Willard Marine won the contract to supply four boats of the 11-meter (36 ft) and 7-meter (23 ft) class with an option for a fifth. It was revealed these are the same models sold to the armed forces of Lebanon and Iraq. On 18 September 2014 it was announced that the United States and Ukraine plan further purchases of patrol boats.[45]

The United States recently offered Ukraine some of its Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates from its reserve fleet. The details of this offer are still being worked out.[46]

Units and aircraftEdit

Left to right, U402 Konstantyn Olshansky, U401 Kirovohrad, U154 Kahovka, U209 Ternopil, and U153 Pryluky

According to former Navy Commander Vice Admiral Yuriy Ilyin, at the beginning of 2013, the fleet had 11 warships fully ready to perform complex tasks and ten aircraft and 31 auxiliary vessels fit for service.[47]

As of 24 March 2014, most of the Ukrainian ships in Sevastopol were taken by the Russian Black Sea Fleet,[48][49] including several aircraft and other equipment. On 8 April 2014 an agreement was reached between Russia and Ukraine to return Ukrainian Navy materials to Ukraine proper.[29] A part of the Ukrainian Navy was then returned to Ukraine but Russia suspended this agreement because/after Ukraine did not renew its unilaterally declared ceasefire on 1 July 2014 in the War in Donbass.[30]

On 11 January 2018 Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia was "ready to return Ukrainian military ships that are still in Crimea, we are ready to hand over aviation equipment and armored vehicles."[50]

Naval InfantryEdit

Ukrainian marines berets

The Ukrainian Naval Infantry (Ukrainian: Морська піхота literally means "Naval Infantry") is a part of coastal guard of the Ukrainian Navy. It is used as a component part of amphibious, airborne and amphibious-airborne operations, alone or in conjunction with formations and units of the Army in order to capture parts of the seashore, islands, ports, fleet bases, coast airfields and other coast objects of the enemy. It can also be used to defend naval bases, vital areas of the shore, separate islands and coastal facilities and provide security in hostile areas.

Based in Mykolaiv it is organized into a full division with 2 brigades (2 more are being activated and 1 transferred from the Ground Forces), 1 coastal and field artillery brigade and 1 multiple rocket launcher artillery regiment.


The headquarters and Main Naval Base of the Ukrainian Navy were located in Sevastopol in Striletska Bay within the Bay of Sevastopol.[7] This is also the main base of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Navy. Since February–March 2014 Ukrainian Naval Forces are headquartered in Odessa and based in ports in mainland Ukraine.

Other naval basesEdit


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External links and further readingEdit