Could Ukraine's Military Still Retake Crimea from Russia?

Artillery Shells
February 13, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: RussiaUkraineWar In UkrainePutinRussian MilitaryMilitaryDefense

Could Ukraine's Military Still Retake Crimea from Russia?

As the conflict in Ukraine nears the two-year mark, the Ukrainian military is steadily ramping up the pressure on the Russian forces in Crimea. The latest attack destroyed an important ground radar station, further restricting Russian air operations. 

As the conflict in Ukraine nears the two-year mark, the Ukrainian military is steadily ramping up the pressure on the Russian forces in Crimea.

The latest attack destroyed an important ground radar station, further restricting Russian air operations. 

Radar Strike on Crimea 

On the last day of January, the Ukrainian forces took out a radar control and coordination facility in Crimea. 

“This will almost certainly degrade Russia’s ability to coordinate air activity in the Black Sea region, increasingly reliance and strain on the already stretched A-50 Mainstay aircraft fleet, as well as an increasingly depleted pool of trained personnel available to direct air operations,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in a recent estimate on the progress of the conflict. 

“Russian air doctrine relies heavily on ground control stations like the one at Belbek to coordinate its airborne assets, particularly fighters. This is especially prevalent during current combat operations where the airspace is contested and becoming increasingly complex,” the British Military Intelligence added. 

The Ukrainian Air Force boasts powerful Western air defense systems, such as the MIM-104 Patriot, IRIS-T, and NASAM, that have severely restricted Russian air operations over Ukraine. To be sure, the Ukrainian air defense umbrella isn’t absolute. The Ukrainian military has concentrated the more capable—and thus precious—air defense systems around key urban centers and critical infrastructure. Moving them closer to the battlefield would pose a great risk, given the prevalence of long-range fires on either side. 

As such, the Russian Aerospace Forces continue to conduct tactical air operations over the frontlines, using fixed-wing and attack helicopters to attack the Ukrainian positions. However, the prevalence of tactical anti-aircraft systems, such as the FIM-92 Stinger shouldered-fire missile, also prevent unrestricted operations. 

“It is almost certain that Russian pilots and ground personnel alike are now suffering from combat fatigue due to the demands of Ukraine operations. Any further strikes on critical coordination nodes in Crimea will almost certainly increase these pressures, creating a heightened possibility of mistake or miscalculation,” the British Military Intelligence added.

Liberating Crimea from Russia?

The Ukrainian government has made it clear that Crimea is a legitimate target and that it intends to liberate it before the war is over. The failed large-scale counteroffensive that took place last summer intended to achieve an operational breakthrough and put the Ukrainian forces on the doorstep of Crimea. However, the operation failed to achieve a breach of the extensive Russian defenses. Now, the Ukrainian military will have to try a different approach, which might include amphibious operations in conjunction with a renewed ground offensive. 

S-400

The Ukrainian military has been using long-range strikes and special operations forces to attack Russian positions in Crimea. Recent operations have included strikes against the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters, attacks on S-400 air defense systems, strikes against the Kerch Bridge that connects the Crimean Peninsula with Russia, and commando raids against ammunition depots and fuel dumps. Kyiv is steadily ramping up the pressure against the Russian forces on Crimea. However, to produce concrete results, the Ukrainian military will also have to put boots on the ground. 

About the Author  

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from Johns Hopkins University and an MA from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP. Email the author: [email protected].

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