Russian President Vladimir Putin has made Russia’s seizure of the Crimea peninsula a centerpiece of his 22-year rule. But a series of clandestine attacks by Ukrainian forces have tested security in Crimea, marking a whole new challenge for Putin in his war to take over Ukraine.
Russian warships patrol Crimea’s coasts and Russian warplanes fly from its territory. This comes after eight years of being occupied by Russia, turning Crimea into a Russian fortress.
Putin has called Crimea a “sacred place,” and Russia’s “holy land.”
A top adviser to Putin has warned if the peninsula was attacked, Ukraine would face “Judgment Day.”
But Ukraine has been calling Putin’s bluff.
Huge explosions have rocked a temporary Russian ammunition depot in Crimea this week, making it the latest in a series of clandestine Ukrainian assaults against the Black Sea peninsula that Putin illegally annexed in 2014. Crimea is now being used as a vital staging ground for Russia’s invasion.
A senior Ukrainian official said that an elite Ukrainian military unit operating behind enemy lines was responsible for the latest blasts.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that the episode was an “act of sabotage,” a significant acknowledgment that the war is spreading to what the Kremlin considers Russian territory.
The attacks in Crimea show Ukraine’s increasingly aggressive military tactics.
The Ukraine government is using long-range Western weapons, as well as special forces, to strike deep behind the front, disrupt Russian supply lines and counter Russia’s advantages in materiel.
This is a new challenge for Putin.
Crimea’s security is a massive key to Russia’s military effort, as well as to Putin’s political standing overall within his home country.
In the run-up to the full invasion of Ukraine, Putin repeatedly cited Crimea as the locus of what he called an existential security threat posed by Ukraine. He warned that a Western-backed Ukrainian effort to retake the peninsula by force could trigger a direct war between Russia and NATO.