Russia is reportedly working to ramp up its defenses for Crimea as experts predict that Ukraine may retake the occupied peninsula within the next year.
In an operational update Friday, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that Russia “continues to strengthen the defense line” on the border of Crimea and the southern Kherson region in Ukraine. The update added that Russia was also bolstering the defense and protection of water facilities that supply the occupied peninsula, and that Russian units were sent to aid the effort.
Surrounded by the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, Crimea is connected to mainland Ukraine by a narrow isthmus. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, though few regimes outside of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s have backed the claim. The U.S. is among the nations that continue to recognize Crimea as part of Ukraine.
Though Russia controlled the peninsula years before it invaded Ukraine in February, Ukrainian officials have stressed that they plan to free Crimea alongside all other territory that Russia has seized.
“This Russian war against Ukraine and against the entire free Europe began with Crimea and must end with Crimea—with its liberation,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr 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.”
Putin declared four additional regions of Ukraine—Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson—as annexed in late September after holding referendums that Ukrainian and Western officials dismissed as illegitimate. In mid-October, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution calling on countries and international organizations not to recognize Russia’s claim over those four regions.
Out of the 193-member U.N. General Assembly, just Belarus, North Korea, Nicaragua and Syria joined Russia in voting against the resolution.
Some experts predict that Ukraine will fulfil its goal of retaking Crimea in 2023. Retired U.S. Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, also the former commanding general of U.S. Army Europe, predicted on Monday that Ukraine’s army would be able to seize control of the occupied Crimea peninsula by August.
Dan Soller, former U.S. Army intelligence colonel, has also told Global Defense Corp that he expects Ukraine to launch a massive offensive to retake Crimea by summer, as long as the war-torn country can do so.
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