KEY POINTS

  • Ukraine fears that Russia might launch an amphibious assault at the port city of Odessa
  • In such a scenario, the presence of Ropucha vessels will add to the beach landing capacity 
  • Swedish warplanes have been constantly monitoring the ships since the voyage began

Amid increased Russian activity in the Baltic sea, three Russian Navy amphibious warfare ships have left the waters towards the Atlantic ocean, causing concern that they may have been heading to Ukraine.

The vessels, including Ropucha class amphibious warfare ships Korolev, Minsk, and Kaliningrad, departed the port of Baltyysk in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad on January 15, reported The Drive.

The ships passed under Denmark's Great Belt bridge Monday morning towards the Atlantic. Though they were not broadcasting AIS, amateur ship-spotters recorded their movements.

The voyage has raised concerns as these ships are normally attached to the Baltic Fleet. Though their final destination is unclear, the Ukrainian military believes Russia will launch an amphibious assault at the port city of Odessa in the event of an invasion. The presence of the three Ropuchas would only add beach landing capacity for the Black Sea Fleet. 

According to reports, each Ropucha class ship can carry up to 10 main battle tanks and 340 troops, 550 tons of cargo, or equivalent loads. However, it is unclear whether these vessels are currently carrying any cargo. 

Ever since the three Northern Fleet vessels had traveled from their home port to the Baltic via the Danish Strait on January 12, they were being monitored by the Swedish Air Force, including by Gripen fighter jets, and the U.S. forces.

While a U.S. Navy P-8A maritime patrol aircraft was noted operating off the Danish coast and over the Baltic Monday, a Swedish Air Force S 100D Argus airborne early warning and control aircraft has also been active in the region today.

This reflected Sweden's statement that "there is a risk" despite such naval transits, including ships to and from Kaliningrad, being common.

"We have different types of sensors and systems that help us monitor the ships," Therese Fagerstedt, a press secretary for the Swedish Armed Forces, was quoted by local media

Meanwhile, the three Baltic Fleet landing ships could also be headed for the Black Sea since the waters around the Crimean peninsula witnessed tensions between the Russian Navy and NATO warships. Since then, the security situation in the region has only worsened, said The Drive.

Also, in case of a Ukraine invasion via the southern route, the vessels would help with amphibious landing in the Sea of Azov. The arrival of two large landing ships would provide a significant addition to the Black Sea Fleet’s existing resources, the report added.

There is also a possibility that this is a "transfer of assets" as the three  Ropuchas  from Baltyysk are now sailing to the Kola Peninsula to take the place of the three Northern Fleet landing ships which are currently in the Baltic. 

Russian ships in the Baltic Sea Representation. Russian navy warships seen in Baltic Sea. Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov