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    Attack on Russian military air base in Crimea. Is this the start of a Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south?

    Ukrainian officials are portraying the attack on a Russian military airfield in Crimea as the start of a counteroffensive in the south, and in doing so are deepening the Kremlin’s confusion about the ability of Ukrainian forces to launch long-range attacks, according to the US-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW). Ukrainian experts expect fierce fighting in August and September that will determine the fate of the next phase of the war.

    The Russian authorities are still confused by the attack on Saki Air Base in annexed Crimea, more than 225 km behind the front line. At least eight military aircraft and many buildings were destroyed in the 9 August attack. The ISW is unable to independently determine the causes of the explosion, and satellite images show damage and craters that could have been the result of many things: special forces, partisans, missiles, on-site or from a distance, the report said.

     

    Kyiv officials suggest that the attack in Crimea is the beginning of a counter-offensive by Ukrainian forces in the south of the country, and Ukrainian experts expect fierce fighting in August and September that will determine the fate of the next phase of the war. One official, asked by the Politico portal whether the attack was the start of a counter-offensive, replied: “you can say this is it”. President Volodymyr Zelenski, on the other hand, declared that the war “began with Crimea and must end with Crimea – with its liberation”.

     

    The Ukrainians are also taking advantage of the Kremlin’s confusion and sending signals that introduce additional uncertainty about the Ukrainian military’s ability to launch long-range attacks. An anonymous Ukrainian official told the New York Times that the attack was carried out with the help of partisans, while another told the Washington Post that Ukrainian special forces were behind it. Still, others mentioned the attack indirectly, without attributing responsibility for it to Ukraine.

     

    ISW points out that the Ukrainian military took responsibility for two other long-range attacks – on a Russian ammunition depot and a Russian army headquarters in the occupied Kherson Oblast, north of Crimea. These targets were – respectively – 100 and 170 km from the front line. The attacks demonstrated Ukraine’s ability to strike from a long distance, although not as far as would be needed to shell Saki Air Base in Crimea, the US think tank highlights.

     

    “Ukrainian forces have various systems that they could have used or modified to hit Russian military infrastructure in Crimea or southern Kherson Oblast,” ISW stresses.

     

    Meanwhile, Russian authorities in the occupied areas of Ukraine are likely to try to push back the date of the so-called referendums on the annexation of these lands to Russia to an earlier date. Previously, the ISW estimated that the fake referendums could take place on 11 September, but according to Ukrainian sources, talk of this date has ceased and the new date is unknown. However, the spectacle associated with the annexation will not change the reality created by the brutal Russian occupation, which is more destructive for Ukraine than the so-called referendums, the report said.

     

    On the frontline, Russian troops continued ground attacks west of Izyum and limited ground assaults near Bakhmut, where they are believed to have made some progress, as they did near Donetsk City. However, their offensive operations near Kharkiv were ineffective, as were reconnaissance operations in the northwest of the Kherson region, it added.

     

    It must be recalled that a series of explosions occurred yesterday at the Russian Armed Forces military air bases in temporarily occupied Crimea. Following the explosion, which took place at the Russian base in Novofedorovka, local media began reporting on the jammed exit roads. A video showing a Russian woman crying in her car as she leaves the Crimean city of Alushta became very popular.

     

     

    Sergey Sumlenny, former director of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, recalled that after the annexation of Crimea, Moscow directed nearly 1 million Russian citizens to the peninsula. During this time, the local population was displaced or oppressed.

     

     

     

     

     

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