Expert: Ukraine has broken strikes on Crimea 'taboo'

Rainer Saks.
Rainer Saks. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Ukrainian forces have been liberating small areas of territory on the Southern front despite the difficulties, has carried out drone attacks on Russian-occupied Crimea and even the interior of Russia itself, and has been focusing primarily on breaking logistics chains, security expert Rainer Saks says.

With the strikes on Crimea in particular, Ukraine has demonstrated that Russia does not bring unstoppable consequences, Saks went on, talking to Vikerradio's "Uudis +" program Monday.

Saks told "Uudis+" that Russian forces can no longer carry out attacks on their own, and as a result, it has switched to the defensive. 

As for Ukraine's planned counteroffensive, Saks said that Russia's actions constitute attempts to take the initiative from Ukraine.

If, for example, Ukraine were able to liberate its entire territory in the long term, there remains the risk that Russia would continue to bomb Ukrainian civilian infrastructure or other targets, from within its own territory.

"Russia still has limited means by which it can carry out such attacks, but from time to time it still manages to do so; Ukrainian air defenses cannot cope with all this 100 percent. Of late, it has been able to do so at around 80 percent capacity, on good days," he added.

Saks added that in border areas of Ukraine, the clear and present risk of falling within Russian artillery range remains.

Saks also outlined why the city of Tokmak, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, has come under the media spotlight, namely its strategic importance in lying on a road crossing in southern Ukraine, about 15km from the current front line. The road to the city of Melitopol, to the Southwest, also leads from that point.

Saks added that: "If Ukraine's forces were able to reach Melitopol, then the land corridor between Crimea and Russia would be cut, which would represent a major strategic loss for Russia."

"And if Ukraine were now able to take control of Tokmak, Russian forces would find re-supply much harder, especially on the immediate west bank of the Dnieper," the expert continued.

Ukraine's current tactics are logistics-focused

Ukraine is, Saks said, primarily trying to neutralize Russian logistics and disrupt its rear, rather than to liberate large territories rapidly, and by storm. "Instead, they are trying to isolate the Russian troops there first, so I don't think that any quick operations can take place in the coming weeks," he said.

As for Russia's inability to adequately defend its Black Sea Fleet, Saks said that the attack on fleet headquarters in Sevastopol came as both a psychological blow to Russia and a major loss in practical terms, as restoring the stationary communication systems located there is proving very time-consuming in the Russian.

"In the case of Russia, for some reason, mobile networks do not seem to be proving themselves. We can also see when erecting defensive lines that Russia is still trying to set up stationary cable connections," said Saks.

Saks highlighted that Russia can continue command and control of the Black Sea Fleet from the cities of Novorossiysk or Rostov-on-Don, both of which are located on actual Russian territory, but this will take time to reorganize, he said. "Thus as of now, Ukraine has a window of time that is suitable for engaging in offensive activities. The coordination of Russian forces is
definitely much poorer."

Russian air defense is not able to deal with the raining down of Storm Shadow cruise missiles supplied by the U.K., he added.

Saks also noted that since strikes on Crimea by Ukraine has become almost an everyday thing, the perception of Crimea as, in Russia's view, being Russian territory, has also changed, so the attack may result in a comprehensive and unexpected response from Russia. "This represents a major achievement for Ukraine in terms of information warfare and psychological warfare," Saks added.

"Russia now also admits that the day-to-day strikes which take place on Russian territory must be taken increasingly seriously; for example, Russia has started to deal with the defense of its civil population."

"And the attitude of the people of Russia towards this war will definitely start to change because of this," he went on.

Saks added that Ukraine is set to continue to depend on military aid from Western countries for a long time to come, as its own arms industry lacks the capacity to produce enough weapons to fight Russia effectively.

"Consequently, Ukraine cannot drag out this war indefinitely; it has to consider
the scenario of this support coming to an end. This can also be felt in the communications from Ukraine, now that they are trying to remain convincing that they remain successful, despite the fact that large large swathes of territory have not been liberated, as was the case in the fall of last year," Saks concluded.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov

Source: 'Uudis+', interviewer Lauri Varik.

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