DW/Giorgos Passas

Early Thursday morning, Ukrainian troops attacked Russian military positions in the annexed Crimean peninsula. According to Ukrainian media the target was an S-300 air defense system or the even more modern S-400 near the city of Yevpatoriya. It was the second such system to be attacked in Crimea in a few weeks.

Last night Ukraine had reported a spectacular strike in Sevastopol, where the main base of the Black Sea Fleet is located. According to reports from Kiev several guided missiles hit a warship and a submarine. Both are said to have suffered serious damage. The Russian Defense Ministry said the ships would be repaired.

Fortress on the Black Sea

For weeks now, the Ukrainian army has been intensifying its attacks in Crimea. Never before have they been so intense and so costly for the Russian side. The peninsula, which was annexed in 2014, has been turned by Russia into a military fortress with several naval and air bases. Shortly before the Russian invasion in February 2022, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense estimated that there were 32,000 Russian soldiers in Crimea. In addition, there are reports that there are also nuclear weapons.

Ukraine attacked the peninsula on a massive scale for the first time in August 2022. Then a military airport was damaged and some fighter planes were destroyed. In October, about a year ago, the Crimean bridge was blown up for the first time and since then the bridge has been attacked repeatedly, due to its importance for supplying Russian troops. But why is Crimea so important?

The importance of Crimea

In addition to its symbolic importance, which President Putin has repeatedly emphasized, the peninsula is important primarily militarily for several reasons. The Black Sea Fleet stationed there attacks Ukrainian cities with Kalibr guided missiles. These are cities located deep inland, close to the EU borders. In addition, Crimea plays a key role in the supply of Russian troops in the southern part of Ukraine. Finally, the naval blockade of Ukrainian ports would also be difficult for Russia to enforce without Crimea.


Immediately after the start of the invasion Russia was able to seize areas larger than Crimea and secure a land connection with the Russian hinterland. Now the counterattack of the Ukrainian army is trying to sever this connection, hitting, among other things, the bridges connecting Crimea with the mainland. For this purpose the Ukrainian army mainly uses Western precision weapons, British and French guided missiles.

Liberation or negotiations?

The head of the Ukrainian army, General Valery Zalusnyi, has described Crimea as a “key factor” in Russia’s war against Ukraine, what the US military calls a “center of gravity” for Russia. Liberation of the peninsula would decisively weaken Russia, although it would not guarantee an end to the war. Russia could continue from its own hinterland even after losing Crimea, as Zalusny warned.


For his part, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared that the war started in Crimea and will end there. Zelensky recently made it clear that Ukraine might want to avoid a military liberation of the peninsula because of the huge casualties it would incur. Kiev would be better off going all the way to Crimea and then negotiating a Russian retreat. For now, however, it is hard to imagine Russia agreeing to such a thing.