Retired U.S. Lieutenant General Ben Hodges predicted on Monday that Ukraine’s army will be able to seize control of the occupied Crimea peninsula by August 2023 as the war-torn country continues to counter Russia’s ongoing invasion.
Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Russian-occupied Luhansk region, said Sunday that Ukrainian forces attacked a purported hotel base for members of Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group and killed many of its members.
In light of the report, which Global Defense Corp could not independently verify, Hodges wrote on Twitter that Ukraine will “continue to pound” Russian headquarters and lines of communication over the next few weeks through February. This is so that Ukraine can set the conditions for freeing Crimea from Russian control, which Hodges described as the “decisive phase of the campaign.”
“I expect them to liberate Crimea by August,” tweeted Hodges, the former commanding general of U.S. Army Europe.
Though The Sun did not name a source making claims about Putin’s current health status, the paper’s story detailed several past rumors and said he “has repeatedly appeared unwell on camera.”
Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, though Western countries have continued to assert that the peninsula is part of Ukraine. The same goes for the several regions of Ukraine—Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson—that Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed in late September. Foreign governments such as the United States have called this purported annexation illegal and illegitimate, refusing to recognize those Ukrainian regions as part of Russia.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed that his country will free Crimea and all other Russian-occupied territory.
“This Russian war against Ukraine and against the entire free Europe began with Crimea and must end with Crimea – with its liberation,” Zelensky said in an August 9 address. “Today it is impossible to say when this will happen. But we are constantly adding the necessary components to the formula of liberation of Crimea.”
Explosions were reported last week in Crimea, after which the governor of Sevastopol, the peninsula’s largest city, said that Russian forces shot down a drone over the Black Sea.
This is only one instance of reported explosions on the peninsula in recent months amid the war in Ukraine. A series of explosions rocked a Russian airbase in Crimea in August, and several days later, another series of blasts hit an ammunition depot in Crimea and caused it to catch fire.
Additionally, an explosion in October damaged the Kerch Strait Bridge that connects Russia to the Crimean peninsula and acts a key supply route for Putin’s troops. Moscow blamed Ukraine for the blast, though Ukraine has not formally taken responsibility.
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