The recent Storm Shadow strikes by Ukrainian forces on the Russian Black Sea Fleet's HQ in Sevastopol is ample demonstration of the fact that nowhere in Crimea is immune to such attacks, commander of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Intelligence Center Colonel Ants Kiviselg said.
Col. Kiviselg (pictured) provided an overview of the security situation at Friday's weekly press briefing at the Ministry of Defense.
At a tactical level, Ukraine's units continue to secure and expand the bridgehead in the village of Robotyne, Zaporizhzhia oblast, in the direction of Orikhiv; to that end Ukrainian forces have entered the outskirts of the nearby villages of Novoprokopivka and Verbove.
"These operations primarily concern infantry tactical units, which are just right for capturing such fortified facilities," Kiviselg said.
The colonel added that the main limiting factor so far as the Ukrainian maneuverability goes remains the extensive minefields which Russian forces have sown.
Russian forces have on the other hand attempted several counter-attacks of localized significance, but these have not brought any benefits which may have been anticipated.
"At the same time, the Russian Federation has begun to secure the defense of Tokmak, a strategically important city which Ukrainian forces are approaching, and is establishing a new defensive zone in the direction of Berdyans'k – a settlement on the road southeast of Tokmak," Kiviselg continued.
Kiviselg averred further that it will be difficult for Ukraine to be operationally successful in order to be able to completely cut off the Crimean land corridor in the near future – referring to occupied Ukrainian territory which Russia seeks to maintain in order to supply and administer Crimea, itself occupied territory and which forms a large peninsula otherwise connected to the land – unoccupied Ukraine.
Nevertheless, the failure of the Russian armed forces at the front and their counter-offensives launched by Ukraine have also created tensions within the military leadership of the Russian Federation, Kiviselg added.
"So far as public information can reveal, the loss of Robotyne has led to changes within the Russian military leadership structure, while the commander of defensive operations in the Zaporizhia region, Col. Gen. Teplinski, also the commander of the Russian Airborne Forces, has reportedly been demoted on the personal orders of Russia's Chief of General Staff Valery Gerassimov precisely after the Russian Federation lost control of Robotyne and proved unable to restore this control via counter-offensives – counter-offensives which [Russian] airborne forces themselves took part in."
According to Kiviselg, the situation has remained unchanged on the remaining sectors of the front. "Units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces have continued to put pressure on Bakhmut, while systematic but difficult progress in isolating Bakhmut goes on. However, this does not guarantee rapid success. We are still moving ahead in small steps," Kiviselg said.
The Russian Federation is trying to up the pressure in the direction of Kup'yans'k, in the Kharkiv oblast, in the North of the country, Kiviselg added.
"Currently, we know that the enemy is carrying out preparatory activities for the battle space in the area. It has destroyed some bridges over the river and continues to concentrate units in this area. The concentration of units there has already been ongoing since August, but most likely they want to create a dilemma for the Ukrainian armed forces where they have to react to this activity and to bring units there from another direction," Kiviselg went on.
Speaking about the attack by the Ukrainian armed forces on the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, Kiviselg said that it shows the ability of the Ukrainians to carry out attacks deep behind the Russians.
"Essentially, no place in Crimea is safe from Ukrainian attacks, and the Russian military will have to take this into account when planning and carrying out their operations in the future," Kiviselg concluded in his overview.
On September 22, several British-supplied Ukrainian Storm Shadow cruise missiles penetrated Russian air defenses and struck the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet in occupied Sevastopol.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov