The attack on a Russian base in annexed Crimea came as a surprise. Experts say that the Ukrainian operation was carried out after thorough preparation and with great precision. To hit the Russian military base, missiles were needed that could travel about 200 kilometers. Satellite images show that the base is badly damaged.
The attack fits in with the country‘s military strategy, says former commander of the army Mart de Kruif. Although Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the attack, according to De Kruif, we can “assume a deliberate attack, given the focus and degree of devastation. This has been carefully prepared.” Nothing indicates an incident, or explosions by an unextinguished cigarette butt, as the Ukrainian defense minister suggested.
Heavy explosions were reported at an air base on the peninsula on Tuesday. Eyewitnesses spoke of twelve explosions. According to De Kruif, it is impossible to tell whether so many missiles were fired. “If the aircraft were armed and refueled at the base, it causes a chain reaction of explosions.” The footage shows that at least six fighter flies have been destroyed.
Crimea has great symbolic and strategic significance for both parties. This is the first time that Ukraine has attacked the peninsula since the Russian annexation in 2014. A big victory for the army, that’s what it sounded like in Ukraine.
It remains unclear what weapon Ukraine deployed to hit Crimea. “They may have used medium-range ballistic missiles from their own arsenal for this, or anti-ship missiles supplied by the British,” says De Kruif. “They are actually meant to hit ships, but it is possible.”
Another option is that Ukraine is in possession of a weapon that the outside world does not know about. There is little chance that the military has used a Himars missile system, a heavy weapon supplied by the US. “They do have great precision, but it would be politically remarkable,” says De Kruif.
At the time of delivery, the Americans made it a condition that missiles should not end up more than 80 kilometers away, to ensure that Russian territory cannot be hit. For this attack, the missiles had to travel at least 200 kilometers.
The war is tipping
The former commander sees the war slowly tilting in favor of Ukraine. “Two weeks ago, Ukraine started a major counter-offensive in the south and the Donbas. Since then, Russians are losing more ground than they are gaining. Ukraine is increasingly taking the initiative,” says De Kruif.
What helps are the heavy weapons that Ukraine has received from the west, allowing them to attack Russian weapons depots from a great distance. “Both parties have enough ammunition, now it comes to motivation and leadership.”