Preparing the Battlefield: Russia's Blind Spots in Crimea

September 23, 2023
UkraineWorld spoke to Volodymyr Selezniov, military observer. Key points – in our brief, #UkraineWorldAnalysis.

On what strategy are the Ukrainian Armed Forces employing to reclaim Crimea

Each military operation conducted by the Ukrainian Defense Forces is distinct. The Ukrainian army is preparing for the upcoming battle in temporarily occupied Crimea and Sevastopol by using kamikaze drones and missiles to drive out the enemy military contingent and destroy enemy military facilities such as airfields, arsenals, warehouses, air defense systems, logistics hubs and routes (bridges, overpasses, warehouses, railway tracks).

Former US commander of US forces in Europe, US General Ben Hodges, believes that Ukraine can liberate Crimea from the enemy presence in a short period of time and with little effort, but only under two conditions: the availability of F-16 fighter jets to provide air cover for Ukrainian troops on land and in the Black and Azov Seas, and ATACMS missiles, which are less expensive but very accurate in destroying the occupation forces' equipment.

Until a decision is reached, the Ukrainian army employs other inventions such as Neptunes, Scalps, Storm Shadow, and kamikaze drones. The Ukrainian army is carrying out the same plan that Ben Hodges mentioned, albeit through different means.

On expectations & Melitopol and Mariupol axis

Some refer to the current war as an artillery war, while others refer to it as a war of drones. Above all, it is a battle for resources.

The Ukrainian army launched a counter-offensive on June 4, when we were all overly expecting to be in liberated Crimea by September, but this did not happen given the enemy had 9 months to prepare, building a powerful network of fortifications in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts, continuous mining with impressive density - sometimes up to 5 mines per square metre, far exceeding Russian regulations.

Unfortunately, while 3 million rounds of ammunition will be transferred as part of the $325 million tranche of military-technical assistance, it will not be enough to turn the tide, but a thousand ATACMS missiles could do it.

In terms of the direction to Berdiansk, our progress has slowed in the area of Novomayorsk and Novoprokopivka due to fierce fighting with the enemy, who has built fortifications there for more than two months.

The situation is similar near Robotyno: whenever we had the chance, we advanced. We were able to move further with armoured vehicles after breaking through the first line of enemy defense south of Robotyno, but behind those Russian units that directly held the line of defense were units of at least 4 divisions of the Russian army's airborne troops, the most elite units of the Russian Federation.

And, accordingly, without the necessary weapons, when our equipment advances further, they simply start burning it.

As a result of the Ramstein meeting, we will receive a €400 million package from our German partners and $325 million from the US government, for which we are grateful, and we emphasise that the successes of the Armed Forces are interconnected with resources, and we need more of them.

On the significance of Boyko's towers returning to Ukraine

During the so-called Crimean Spring in February-March 2014, the Russian army occupied Crimea, and local authorities privatised all Ukrainian facilities. Boyko's towers were used for 9 years to pump out Ukrainian gas for the needs of the occupation authorities as well as military purposes, with equipment placed there to conduct radio reconnaissance and monitor the actions of Ukrainian Defense forces in the northwestern Black Sea.

After these towers were returned to Ukrainian control, we essentially ripped the enemy's eyes out by dismantling the Russian Black Sea Fleet's Niva-10 radio reconnaissance equipment.

The Ukrainian army is pushing the occupiers out of the Black Sea's northwestern part - first, the Russian Black Sea Fleet's flagship, the Moskva, was destroyed, then Snake Island was liberated, Russia's military presence on Boyko's towers was eliminated, and then systematic and methodical work began to destroy the enemy's air defense systems in Crimea's western part - first Tarkhankut, then near Yevpatoria, and now Sevastopol.

Volodymyr Selezniov, military observer