A series of explosions this week at a Russian military base on the Crimean coast has major symbolic and strategic implications for both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Why this is important: Satellite images appear to confirm this explosion – which drove frantic Russian tourists onto a nearby beach – badly damaged several Russian warplanes.
- The blasts are likely to fuel a new sense of insecurity over Russia’s use of Crimea as a transport and logistics hub as the Ukrainians prepare for an offensive in Kherson, north of Crimea.
- Russia has sent thousands of troops from the Donbass via Crimea to strengthen its position in southern Ukraine.
- The explosions brought the war to a small fraction of Russia’s civilian population. Videos of traffic jams on the bridge connecting the peninsula to Russia — where Russian tourists had abandoned their vacations — was shared online.
In play: Ukraine has not officially claimed or denied responsibility for the blasts, but an unidentified Ukrainian official did told the Washington Post The attack was carried out by special forces operating behind Russian lines.
- Meanwhile, Reuters speculates That these were long-range strikes indicates a new Ukrainian capability potentially “capable of changing the course of the war”. It is all unconfirmed.
- Moscow, however, said It was all just a minor ammunition explosion – a claim disproved by satellite imagery and scoffed at by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, which issued a Video advice Russians would choose a holiday destination other than Crimea, which would be “uncomfortably hot”.
- Asked what he thought of the explosions, Ukrainian Cpl. Andriy Shadrin – who is and is from Crimea Related to Axios While fighting in Donbas — repurposed a A recent quote from Putin: “I think, ‘We haven’t even started’.”
- If Ukrainian forces were behind the blasts, it would be the first major attack in Crimea since the start of the war, which Russia seized in 2014.
The most significant comment Came from Zelensky, who announced on Tuesday The war should end with the “liberation” of Crimea.
Between the lines: Zelensky previously admitted in a Interview with Axios Attempting to seize Crimea by force could cost “millions of thousands” of people, a cost he suggested would be too high.
- While Ukraine is unlikely to launch a full-scale operation to retake the peninsula, some officials and analysts worry that such statements could raise unrealistic expectations for any eventual peace deal.
- Crimea has major symbolic resonance for Ukrainians, it is also one of Putin’s major achievements and cannot be easily relinquished.
What to look for: Both Ukraine and Russia are building up their forces near Kherson in anticipation of a major new phase of fighting there. Russia’s offensive in the east appears to have slowed as attention shifted south.
- Meanwhile, Ukraine is using US-provided HIMARS rocket systems to destroy bridges and Russian supply depots.
Between: The UN and G7 are sounding the alarm over the nearby shooting Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant, also in southern Ukraine.
- United Nations Secretary General Anthony Guterres on Thursday reiterated He called for an immediate end to the fighting in the area, which he termed “suicide”. Russia and Ukraine are accusing each other.
- Russian forces seized the plant in March and forced Ukrainian workers to keep it running. The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog has warned that the plant is “out of control” and requested immediate access to inspect it.