Zelensky continues to say that the recapture of Crimea remains a war goal. There will be no peaceful solution.
Jenny WagnerNews editor
When it comes to peace talks in Ukraine, restoring regional integrity remains a non-negotiable priority. In a speech last Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi (44) made it clear once again that the recapture of all of Ukraine, including Crimea, remains a war goal. After the liberation of Kherson, is the peninsula the next target?
“An attack on Crimea would be a complete game changer,” Ulrich Schmidt (56), professor of Russian culture and society at the University of St. Gallen, tells Blick. Instead of gaining ground, Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin, 70, stands to lose. However, the Ukrainians will have to pay a high price for taking Crimea. “Russia had enough time to arm Crimea,” Schmidt continued.
An attack on the peninsula would mean a new level of expansion. “Moscow will do everything to protect the peninsula,” Marcel Berni (34), a strategist at ETH Zurich’s military academy, told Blick. A large part of the population on the peninsula still sympathizes with Russia. When Putin annexed Crimea in 2014, 95 percent voted in an illegal referendum to join the Russian Federation.
Forts, defensive positions and trenches
Russia’s strong attachment to Crimea is due to its central importance in the war. Bernie explains that only thanks to the Crimea, the Russian troops were able to capture Cherson in the first weeks of the war. If Ukraine succeeds in recapturing it, the logistics of Russian troops in the war will become even more difficult.
What’s more, no other place is as iconic to Russia as Crimea. After World War II, the Yalta Conference was held there, where the future world order was negotiated. As for Russian Orthodoxy, according to Putin, Crimea is “as sacred as the Temple Mount for those who profess Judaism or Islam”. Russia is ready to defend this “holy land” by any means, “which is why the Russian forces are currently building intensive fortifications, defensive positions and trenches,” says Bernie.
Putin cannot afford to lose under any circumstances. “For Russia, an attack in Crimea means that Ukraine is attacking Russian territory,” Schmitt explains. He currently thinks it unlikely that Ukraine is planning an attack. “Zelensky puts the maximum demand in the room, but he himself knows that an attack at this time is unrealistic.”
“A head-on attack on the island would be a great risk”
If Ukraine does indeed send troops to Crimea, they will be in short supply elsewhere where they are needed. The resistance of the Russians must be enormous. Whether the West would support Ukraine in an attack on Crimea is questionable.
Bernie Sue Bligh: “Such an attack represents not only a military but also a diplomatic risk. It could lead to a split among Western supporters who are central to Ukraine.”
Strategically, recapture is not easy anyway and must be well planned. “A head-on attack on the island would pose a huge risk,” says the ETH military expert. In his view, a victory was not completely ruled out. “Military maneuvers involving ground forces, sea landings and air strikes on the ground will be amazing,” he says.
Recovering Crimea is now difficult. But: the situation seems to be improving in favor of Ukraine. According to Russia expert Schmidt, geopolitical pressure on Putin is increasing. President Olaf Scholz, 64, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 68, called on the Kremlin leader in September to withdraw from occupied territories in Ukraine, including Crimea. So far, the West has supported Ukraine. If Putin’s forces push back further, it is possible that Ukraine will eventually liberate Crimea.
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