Ukrainian special forces landed in Crimea for covert operations

Ukraine’s navy and military intelligence carried out a “special operation” overnight with units landing in Crimea, officials have said.

A short and brief video posted on Thursday, along with a statement by the Defence Ministry intelligence service (GUR), showed a small motorboat moving through the water at night near a coastline.

The alleged landing came at a poignant moment, with Ukraine celebrating its independence from the Soviet Union on Thursday, August 24.

The intelligence service said the landing point was on the western tip of the Crimean Peninsula.

“Special units on watercraft landed on the shore in the area of the Olenivka and Mayak settlements,” GUR said.

It added that “all goals” had been achieved and that casualties had been inflicted, but did not specify the aims of the operation.

“The enemy suffered losses among personnel, [and] enemy equipment was destroyed,” GUR said, noting that the “state flag flew again in the Ukrainian Crimea”.

If confirmed, the operation would mark a rare demonstration that Ukrainian forces can stage acts on the ground in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

The reports come a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed to end Russia’s occupation of Crimea.

During a speech at an international conference on Crimea in Kyiv, Zelenskyy said Crimea will be “de-occupied like all other parts of Ukraine that are unfortunately still under the occupier”.

Last month, Moscow accused Ukraine of attacking the Russian-built Crimean bridge, which has been closed due to multiple incidents, including an explosion in July 2023.

Zelenskyy said that once Crimea was back under Ukrainian control, it would be part of Ukraine’s economy and, therefore, the global economy.

“Today we are taking the first such economic step. We are signing the first document with companies that are ready to enter Crimea following Ukraine,” he said.

On Wednesday, Ukraine’s military also reported deliberately luring a Russian military pilot to land his Mi-8 helicopter at a Ukrainian airfield.

Ukraine has launched multiple attacks on the Russian-annexed peninsula since the start of Moscow’s invasion in February 2022, and refers to the area as “temporarily occupied”.

But Russia has shown no sign of abandoning Crimea, which it has used as a platform to launch missile strikes on Ukrainian targets.

Moscow says a referendum held after Russian forces seized the peninsula showed Crimeans want to be part of Russia, a claim vehemently denied by Ukraine and much of the international community.

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