Kyiv’s upcoming counter-offensive will try to cut off the Crimean peninsula from mainland Russia, according to a top Ukrainian intelligence official who revealed part of an operation to retake some of the occupied south.
Before the Kremlin launched its invasion last year, a bridge over the Kerch Strait was the only link between Crimea, which Moscow illegally annexed in 2014, and mainland Russia.
Russia’s invasion subsequently created a “land bridge” to the peninsula by taking the coastline, including cities such as Mariupol. Part of the bridge was attacked by Ukrainian forces last autumn.
However, Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine’s deputy military intelligence chief, said that the much-anticipated spring counter-offensive would aim to “drive a wedge” between Crimea and the Russian mainland.
Russia’s ‘land bridge’
In an interview with the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper, he said: “The purpose of our counter-offensive is to liberate all occupied territories of Ukraine – including Crimea. We won’t stop until we have our country back in the 1991 borders.”
In a recent speech, Vladimir Putin boasted that his country’s territorial gains in southern Ukraine allowed Moscow to have full control of the Sea of Azov.
Recapturing cities such as Melitopol or Mariupol, and thus cutting Crimea off from Russian-occupied areas in Donetsk, would make it difficult for Russia to bring in supplies and reinforcements to the peninsula.
On Monday, Russia renewed drone attacks on Ukraine after a two-week hiatus that had given rise to speculation that the Kremlin could be running low on Iranian-made drones.
The attack killed at least two people and injured four in the central city of Khmelnytskyi, even though Ukrainian air defence shot down 11 out of 14 drones.
Russia ‘exhausting Ukraine’s missile defence’
Yuri Ignat, a spokesman for Ukraine’s air force, said that Russia now mostly launches drones to exhaust Ukraine’s missile defence.
“This is how they locate (our missile defence) and calculate where we deploy it, how we move it around, et cetera,” he told Ukrainian television.
Separately, Ukrainian military intelligence claimed that Russia was running low on high-precision missiles.
Moscow has about 100 high-precision missiles such as the Kalibr, according to Andriy Chernyak, a spokesman for Ukrainian military intelligence.
Russia also has “thousands” of other types of rockets, but current production rates are not keeping up with the speed at which the Russian army has been using them, he said.