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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Putin Is in Trouble: Ukraine Is Attacking Targets in Occupied Crimea

T-90 Russian Tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
T-90 Russian Tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Ukraine launched fresh strikes on Russian positions in the southern city of Melitopol and in Russian-occupied Crimea over the weekend.

The long-awaited strikes follow the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Kherson city region in recent weeks, putting Crimea within striking distance.

Explosions were reported across Melitopol, in the Crimean cities of Sevastopol and Simferopol, and at a Russian military barracks in Sovietsky.

Russian media reported at least 20 missiles struck Melitopol on Saturday and Sunday.

Russian-installed authorities in Ukraine reported that two were killed in the strikes and a further ten were injured.

Yevgeny Balitsky, the Russian-installed governor of occupied Zaporizhzhia, claimed that Russian Air defense systems destroyed four Ukrainian missiles and confirmed that two hit their intended targets.

The exiled Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol, however, claimed that “scores” of Russians were killed.

Why It Matters

Much like with similar recent strikes on Russian soil, Ukrainian authorities have not yet taken responsibility for the attacks.

An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, however, described the importance of Melitopol as a key logistics hub for Russian positions in southern Ukraine.

“All logistics linking the Russian forces on the eastern part of the Kherson region and all the way to the Russian border near Mariupol is carried out through it,” Oleksiy Arestovych said, adding that if Melitopol falls, so does the “entire defense line all the way to Kherson.”

If Russia loses its entire line of defense in the region, it could open up the Crimean peninsula to new attacks. Russian forces know this has become a possibility, and in recent weeks, videos have emerged showing Russian troops digging trenches on the peninsula in preparation for a Ukrainian counter offensive designed to take back control of the territory Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed in 2014.

Along with reports that Russian forces have begun withdrawing from some parts of Zaporizhzhia Oblast, Moscow is now faced with the difficulty reality that most of the territories annexed in September are still very much contested with large sections of each territory still controlled by Ukraine.

It could be bad news for Russia, although this would not be the first time that the Kremlin has ordered tactical withdrawals in preparation of a new offensive.

This weekend’s strikes do, however, pose a challenge for Russia in that key supply routes and an entire line of defense are now at risk, and losing them now could make a battle for Crimea more intense – and riskier for Russia – further down the line.

Written By

Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive's Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.