Russia blow as US Army officer pinpoints Ukraine move for Crimea

Crimea: Huge blaze burns on Kerch Bridge

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Russia has been dealt a devastating blow after a retired US Army officer perfectly pinpointed how Ukraine can liberate the annexed region of Crimea by mid-2023. Last month, Vladimir Putin saw the Kerch Bridge between Crimea and Russia rocked by a shuge explosion following a surprise attack that saw parts of the structure collapse.  The peninsula is home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and numerous military airports and bases, with it also being critical for operational and logistical support of Russia’s southern front in Ukraine.

Putin blamed Kyiv and called it a “terrorist attack” and just hours later, Russia fired a number of missiles that smashed into numerous cities in Ukraine – including Kyiv.

But retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, who served as Commanding General in the US Army Europe, believes a huge counter offensive launched by Ukraine against Russia early last month could play a huge part in recapturing Crimea.

He explained how if this continues at pace, Ukrainian troops could push the Russians back to the February 23 line (the day before the invasion started) by the end of the year and could liberate Crimea by next summer.

The retired Lieutenant General told “If you imagine a map of Ukraine – think of this counter offensive that started in early September – it has two wings.

“The first is the one that is opposite Kherson in the south and coming from the west. The other is the one that surprised the Russians that is moving down south eventually, to me, towards Mariupol.

“That red arrow pointing south and the other arrow pointing west to east – both are going to end up outside Crimea.

“All roads lead to Crimea so that means when they get down there, below the line of areas such as Kherson and Melitopal, they will have high margin range when they start hitting Russian bases and facilities in Crimea.”

He added: “When they do that, Crimea becomes untenable which is why the attack on the Kerch Bridge was so important, whoever did it.

“If that gets severed again or Russia can’t adequately repair it, you are talking about a large number of Russians who would find themselves in a sack in Crimea.

“The first part, where they push the Russians back to the February 23 line, happens by the end of this year and then the Crimea bit by next summer.”

Russian forces have come under intense pressure from long-range artillery and rocket fire from advancing Ukrainian troops who began moving in two months ago to reclaim Kherson.

Losing that city would deal another devastating blow to Putin, who last month proclaimed Kherson province and three other partially occupied regions part of Russia.

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The potential capture of Kherson could leave thousands of Russian troops trapped on the Dnipro’s western bank, subsequently cutting off a straightforward crossing to the east.

Military experts have also said it could bring Russian bases in the annexed Crimea peninsula within range of heavy artillery.

Just days ago, it appeared Ukraine had scored a major victory as hopes Russian forces were starting to relinquish Kherson, when Moscow-appointed occupation authorities began evacuating tens of thousands of residents by ferries to the Dnipro’s east bank.

Last month, retired Lieutenant General Hodges told the CEPA Forum in Washington: “Once Ukrainians are able to get HIMARS or other rocket launching systems within range and they start putting a rocket on Russian bases in Crimea, then it is just a matter of time.

“Crimea is the prize. Victory will be when that last Russian soldier walks along that long bridge and the Russian troops are gone from Crimea.”

Retired US Lieutenant General Mark Hertling agreed that Ukraine would look to recapture Crimea and while he admitted the battle would be extremely tough, it would have backing from the US.

He said: “If Ukraine decides to go and retake Crimea — and I think they eventually will — the US government has said we will support the actions of Ukraine anywhere they want to go.”

But Lieutenant General Hertling acknowledged it would be a “tough fight” for Ukrainian forces to retake the annexed peninsula – largely because of the challenges posed by the terrain.

He explained: “They are limited to just a couple of roads that go over a marshland. It is going to be very difficult from a conventional perspective for the Ukrainian army to get into Crimea.”

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