The Russian military is preparing for an attack in Crimea.
With Kyiv getting ready to launch its large-scale counteroffensive, Moscow is taking steps to ensure that the key Crimean Peninsula remains in its hands.
Russian Smoke Screens
Last week, the Russian military conducted a large-scale security exercise around the Kerch Bridge, which links the occupied Crimean Peninsula with Russia.
The exercise involved a huge smoke screen by TDA-3 truck-mounted smoke generators, and the objective was to defend against an incoming air attack against the Kerch Bridge.
“Russian doctrine considers the use of smoke part of maskirovka (camouflage and deception)—upon which it places strong emphasis,” the British Military Intelligence stated in its latest estimate of the war.
The upcoming Ukrainian large-scale counteroffensive is likely to strike toward the south of the country.
Such an axis of advance would put the Crimean Peninsula right at the center of the counter-offensive.
Ukraine has already targeted and attacked the key bridge, managing to damage it and restrict the flow of supplies for several days.
Now, however, the Ukrainian military has received the Storm Shadow air-launched cruise missile from the United Kingdom. The munition is designed to penetrate air defenses and attacks based on pre-designated coordinates.
The smoke screen would do little to defend the bridge. However, it might help against suicide drones, which depend on a visual depiction of the target to hit it successfully.
“However, in practice, Russian maskirovka has generally been ineffectual in the Ukraine war, likely because of a lack of a strong central planning function and poor low-level battle discipline,” the British Military Intelligence added.
The war in Ukraine really began back in 2014 when Russian special forces and Wagner Group mercenaries invaded Crimea in a lighting operation. Soon thereafter, the Kremlin conducted a referendum and illegally annexed the Ukrainian territory.
In the nine years since the Russian forces entered Crimea, Moscow has gone through considerable trouble to ensure that the Peninsula would remain Russian even in the event of a war. The Russian Ministry of Defense has placed several Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2/AD) systems, including the S-400 air defense weapon system, in Crimea.
Also, the Crimean Peninsula is playing an important role in the Kremlin’s “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine.
The Russian military’s southern push started from Crimea, and the Peninsula is now acting as a big logistical base for the Russian units fighting in the south and the Donbas.
The Russian forces continue to lose men on a steady basis. On day 459 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian forces keep taking significant casualties on the ground.
Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Monday, Ukrainian forces have killed and wounded approximately 207,030 Russian troops.
Destroyed equipment includes: 313 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 298 attack and transport helicopters, 3,801 tanks, 3,435 artillery pieces, 7,467 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 575 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 18 boats and cutters, 6,207 vehicles and fuel tanks, 331 anti-aircraft batteries, 3,054 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 453 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 1,056 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
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A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.