Russia digging trenches in Crimea and redeploying weapons as it fears Ukraine counteroffensive

Russia likely withdrawing equipment from Crimea out of fear of Ukrainian spring advance

Arpan Rai
Friday 07 April 2023 13:18 BST
Smoke rises from fire inside Russian defence ministry in Moscow

There are signs Russia is taking key equipment from occupied Crimea and redeploying it in Ukraine’s southern sector while also fortifying the contested peninsula ahead of an expected Ukrainian spring counteroffensive.

This comes as Ukraine has said talks with Russia on Crimea will take place if the planned counteroffensive succeeds.

“Russian forces may have withdrawn equipment from occupied Crimea for redeployment elsewhere in southern Ukraine out of fear of a Ukrainian counteroffensive,” the US-based Institute for the Study of War has said.

It added that satellite imagery shows “withdrawal of a significant amount of armoured fighting vehicles, tanks, and towed artillery systems from a depot in Medvedivka (20km northeast of Dzhankoy along the M18 highway) between 17 March and 5 April,” but did not specify the destination of the exported munitions.

Satellite images shared by Maxar show Russia has been fortifying Crimea by digging trenches for weeks now around the small town of Medvedivka and bolstering it with an elaborate system spanning several kilometres.

Russian forces have cut up passages in the area to help soldiers get better angles in their bid to have a broader range of fire, reported The Washington Post.

Fortifications and Dragon’s Teeth installed in Medvedivka in Crimea on 11 February

It added that other fortifications in the area include earth dug up for deep ditches to capture tanks and heavy vehicles.

Close up view of Dragon’s Teeth being placed in Medvedivka in Crimea in February. The fortification is likely being done by Russian forces anticipating military salvo from Ukrainian forces in the coming weeks

The aerial images show dozens of similar defences built by Russia in the area.

Black Sea coastline dotted with dragons teeth and trenches along a beach west of Yevpatoria in Crimea on 12 March

Close up view shows tanks and artillery at a Russian military base in Medvedivka in Crimea as seen on 11 February

Trenches and military vehicles seen deployed north of Armiansk in Crimea on 16 February

Heavy fortifications and dragons teeth seen in place in Maslove, Crimea in the first week of January

Additional trenches and revetments seen near Medvedivka in Crimea on 11 February

Military analyst Ian Matveev said Russia “apparently understands” that they will have to protect Crimea in the near future.

This comes as a top adviser to president Volodymyr Zelensky has signalled that Ukraine may no longer require the complete return of Crimea as a precondition to peace talks.

The deputy head of Mr Zelensky’s office Andriy Sybiha has said that Ukraine will discuss the future of Crimea with Mr Putin if Ukrainian soldiers touch the peninsula’s borders successfully.

The top official warned that this does not mean that Ukraine will “exclude the way of liberation [of Crimea] by our army.”

This is the first time Mr Zelensky’s officials have spoken about peace talks on Crimea after the former stand-up comedian took office in 2019.

Officials in Kyiv are raising the temperature on discussions around plans to recapture territory occupied by Russia, including Crimea.

Mr Zelensky’s envoy to Crimea, Tamila Tasheva, has said that “Ukraine will choose the way to bring Crimea back, using political and military means,” reported Politico.

The officials said that in order to “minimise Ukrainian military losses, minimise threats to civilians who live in occupied territories, as well as the destruction of civilian infrastructure”, the Ukrainian forces plan to give Russia a choice on their options to leave Crimea and even use military action as a last resort.

“If they don’t agree to leave voluntarily, Ukraine will continue to liberate its land by military means,” the envoy said.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in