Kiev has stepped up strikes in occupied Crimea, seeking to undermine the Kremlin’s war effort as its soldiers engage in fierce battles to break through heavily defended Russian frontiers in southern and eastern Ukraine.
In recent weeks, attacks on the peninsula, a key logistical hub for Russia’s war effort, have intensified. On Thursday, both Ukraine and Russia announced new attacks, a day after Ukraine’s military attacked two ships at the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, one of Kyiv’s boldest attacks on Russia’s military infrastructure since the start of the war.
“The way to victory on the battlefield is to defeat the Russians’ logistics,” Andriy Yermak, a senior adviser to the Ukrainian president, said in a statement after the strikes in Crimea on Wednesday. Defeating Russia, he said, depends on not giving Moscow “an opportunity to secure a military capability to wage a war of aggression.”
The Kremlin tightly controls information released by its proxy officials in Crimea, and it is often difficult to assess the impact of individual attacks on Russian airfields, ports, bases, missile complexes and supply lines. Moscow still maintains strong air defense systems and has shown its ability to adapt to new Ukrainian threats.
However, the pace and intensity of the strikes is clearly growing.
The Ukrainian military said on Thursday that it had struck a Triumf missile defense system near Yevpatoria in western Crimea. The success of the move could not immediately be independently verified, but it shows Ukraine’s commitment to knocking out Russia’s air defenses and making future attacks more effective. The Russian Defense Ministry did not comment on the claim.
Thursday’s attack on the security system involved both drones and missiles, a Ukrainian security official said on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the operation.
Earlier in the day, Ukrainian cruise missiles appeared to have hit a Russian Kilo-class submarine and a large landing craft at a shipyard in Sevastopol, the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. Russian officials acknowledged that two ships in the drydock were damaged, and satellite images showed that a submarine and a landing craft were at the site.
The large landing craft are an important logistical asset as Russia looks for more secure ways to support its forces in Ukraine, and depending on the extent of the damage, this is the second ship put out of commission by the Ukrainian strike in recent weeks.
Ben Barry is a senior fellow for land warfare studies at the Institute for International Strategic Studies, a British think tank. wrote on Thursday Ukraine’s “deep war” against targets far from the front, including Crimea, “has shown signs of success in disrupting both Russian military operations” that “could set up Ukraine’s forces for a breakthrough victory or at least significantly reduce Russia’s combat power.”
The attack on Sevastopol came days after Ukrainian special forces said they had recovered several oil and gas platforms in the waters between Odessa and Crimea. Ukraine’s claim could not be independently verified, and the Russian Defense Ministry did not comment.
Military Inspectors and British Military Intelligence Agency Russia has installed radar installations and long-range missile systems at such sites that are used to attack Ukraine and defend against attacks on Russian installations in Crimea. Ukrainian military officials said one aim of the operation was to reduce the Russians’ ability to detect threats aimed at Crimea.
Ukraine has also used maritime drones to target Russian ships in the Black Sea. The Russian patrol ship Sergey Godov was targeted by five unmanned vessels early Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement. The Russians claimed the attack had been repulsed, a claim that could not be independently verified.
Crimea was a catalyst for Moscow’s invasion nearly 19 months ago and is a key link in the Russian supply chain, arming and feeding tens of thousands of Russian soldiers fighting.