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Russia’s Ukraine War Nightmare: Is Putin Scared He Could Lose Crimea?

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

The Ukrainian forces continue to probe the Russian defensive lines in several places in search of weak spots. Meanwhile, the Russian forces are expanding their fortifications, especially those that lead to the precious Crimean Peninsula.

Fortifying Crimea

Although there is heavy fighting on the ground as the Ukrainian military is probing and stretching the Russian forces to find a weak spot, Moscow is already working on additional layers of fortifications.

Thus far, the extensive defensive lines have worked very well for the Russians. Seeing this, the Russian military leadership is looking to create additional obstacles for the Ukrainians and thus maximize its chances of stopping Kyiv’s advancing forces. 

The Ukrainian counteroffensive is likely looking to drive a wedge between the Russian forces in Crimea and the Donbas and cut the land bridge that leads to the Peninsula.

In response, the Russians have been constructing additional defensive positions at the entrance of Crimea, a narrow bridge of land that connects the Peninsula with Kherson Oblast. The extensive fortifications are about 6 miles in length.

“These elaborate defenses highlight the Russian command’s assessment that Ukrainian forces are capable of directly assaulting Crimea,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in a recent estimate on the war.

It’s no secret that Moscow is looking to hold on to Crimea seemingly at all costs. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin advisers have repeatedly telegraphed that occupied Crimea is out of bounds for the Ukrainians. Indeed, the Russian leader has even threatened to deploy a tactical nuclear weapon against Ukraine if the territorial integrity of Crimea is threatened by the counteroffensive. And yet, Russian officials have made similar threats before with no action.

Since invading and illegally annexing the Peninsula in 2014, the Russian military has turned Crimea into a fortress, with extensive anti-access, aerial denial (A2/AD) systems to keep NATO warships and aircraft away.

Russia continues to see maintaining control of the peninsula as a top political priority,” the British Military Intelligence added.

This week, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated that an attack on the Crimean Peninsula with Western long-range systems, such as the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and Storm Shadow cruise missile, would trigger a big response.

Russian Casualties

On day 484 of the war, the Russian forces continued to take significant casualties on the ground. In the last 24 hours, the Russian military, Wagner Group private military company, and pro-Russian separatist forces lost about 650 men killed, wounded, or captured.

Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Thursday, Ukrainian forces have killed and wounded approximately 222,650 Russian troops, destroyed 314 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 307 attack and transport helicopters, 4,013 tanks, 3,941 artillery pieces, 7,783 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 617 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 18 boats and cutters, 6,678 vehicles and fuel tanks, 376 anti-aircraft batteries, 3,438 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 539 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 1,214 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.

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 InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

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1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise 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.