There is a sophisticated plan behind Ukrainian bombs in Crimea

In recent days, Ukraine has been increasing attacks on Russian military positions in Crimea using a combination of drones and cruise missiles. But why is the annexed peninsula considered crucial to the war?

It happened for the second night in a row. Ukrainian troops attacked Russian military positions on the annexed Crimean peninsula early Thursday morning. According to Ukrainian media, the target was an S-300 anti-aircraft system or the even more modern S-400 near the city of Yevpatoria.

It would be the second such system to be attacked in Crimea in just a few weeks. This time the Russian military only reported an allegedly repelled drone attack, without any details.

The night before, Ukraine reported a spectacular strike in Sevastopol, the main base of the Black Sea Fleet. According to reports from Kiev, several cruise missiles hit a landing warship and a submarine. Both are said to be badly damaged. Russia’s Defense Ministry announced that the ships would be repaired.

Ukraine damages important air defense system in Crimea

The Ukrainian military has been increasing attacks on Crimea for several weeks. Never before have they been so intense and so costly for the Russian side.

The peninsula, which was annexed in 2014, was expanded by Russia in the following years into a military fortress with several bases for the navy and air force.

Shortly before the Russian invasion in February 2022, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense estimated the number of Russian troops in Crimea at just under 32,000 men. Nuclear weapons are also said to be stationed there.

Ukraine attacked the island massively for the first time in August 2022. At that time, a military airport near Saki was hit and some fighter planes were destroyed.

The Crimean Bridge was blown up for the first time around a year ago in October. Since then, this bridge, which is most important for supplying Russian troops, has been repeatedly attacked, most recently by sea drones.

Without Crimea, Russia would have difficulty enforcing the naval blockade of Ukrainian ports

Why is Crimea so important for both sides? Apart from the symbolic importance that Russian President Vladimir Putin repeatedly emphasizes, the peninsula is primarily important militarily.

The Black Sea Fleet stationed there is attacking Ukrainian cities with Kalibr cruise missiles – from the interior of the country to the EU border. The same applies to aircraft stationed in Crimea with their missiles.

Crimea also plays a central role in supplying Russian troops in southern Ukraine. Finally, the naval blockade of Ukrainian ports would be difficult for Russia to implement without Crimea.

Immediately after the invasion, Russia was able to occupy larger areas from Crimea and secure a land connection with the Russian mainland. The Ukrainian army has been trying to cut this connection with its counteroffensive since the beginning of the summer.

Among other things, the military is attacking all bridges that connect Crimea with the mainland. Western precision weapons are mostly used for this purpose, including British and French cruise missiles.

According to Zelensky, the war will end in Crimea

The commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, General Valery Zalushny, described Crimea as a “key factor” in Russia’s war against Ukraine in a key article in the fall of 2022.

Retaking the peninsula would significantly weaken Russia, but it would not guarantee a military end to the war. Saluzhny warned that Russia could continue on its own land even after losing Crimea.

First advance to Crimea – then negotiate?

President Volodymyr Zelensky is still hoping for a breakthrough. The head of state said the war began in Crimea and would end there.

Kiev’s best option would be to advance to Crimea and then negotiate a Russian withdrawal. At the moment, however, it is difficult to imagine Russia agreeing to this.

Jean Harris

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