Attrition: Russian Crimea Defenses Crumble


May 14, 2024: In April the Ukrainian intelligence service made it possible for a Ukrainian S-300 Air Defense missile system to shoot down a Russian Tu-22M3 heavy bomber that has been attacking Ukrainian forces near the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula. This was the first time the Ukrainians were able to shoot down a Russian Tu-22M3 heavy bomber that was operating hundreds of kilometers from its base inside Russia. The Tu-22M3 was attacking various Ukrainian targets near Crimea or bordering the Black Sea or the Sea of Azov extension in the northeast. Ukraine has been regularly attacking Russian land and naval bases in Crimea and usually destroying them. Ukraine also attacked Russian radars and SAM (Surface to Air Missile) installations. This made it easier for Ukrainian missiles to hit targets in Crimea. Russian civilians who came to live in Crimea since 2014 are leaving what they now consider a war zone.

When Russia seized control of Ukrainian Crimea in 2014, there were already several large Russian military bases there. The Russians paid Ukraine rent for the use of these bases and had a long-term lease. The 2014 seizure was believed to be cheaper and more useful to Russia than operating in Ukrainian-controlled Crimea. Since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, in an attempt to conquer all of Ukraine, the Ukrainians have managed to halt the Russian attack and inflict heavy losses on the Russian forces. The Ukrainian resistance included a growing number of attacks on Russian bases in Crimea, sometimes using Ukrainian commandos who sought to take prisoners and capture documents as well as destroying military facilities like air or sea search radars.

By 2o23 Ukraine had destroyed over a third of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and forced the remainder to move as far from Crimea as possible. This means anchorages in the Black Sea extension, the Sea of Azov that was more than a thousand kilometers from Crimea and reachable only via the narrow 15 kilometer-long Kerch Strait. This is also the site of the Kerch Strait bridge, which connects Crimea with the Russian mainland. This bridge has been under constant attack by the Ukrainians since Russia invaded in early 2022. Currently Ukraine is attacking the bridge with explosive armed USVs (Unmanned Surface Vessels). Similar USVs were used against the Black Sea Fleet. With Crimea stripped of its radars, anti-aircraft systems and warships normally based there, the area is now largely defenseless. Every Russian vehicle and electronic device in Crimea relies on imported fuel and the Crimea is now effectively blockaded by Ukrainian forces. No more fuel gets into Russian-occupied Crimea. When the last of it is used, Russian-occupied Crimea will be defenseless and Ukrainian forces can walk in and take over.




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