Crimea may lose its role as Russia’s bridgehead due to Ukrainian strikes - ISW

Crimea may lose its role as Russia’s bridgehead due to Ukrainian strikes - ISW

Further strikes by Ukraine on Russian air defense assets in temporarily occupied Crimea, as well as on those recently moved to the peninsula from Russia, could make the area unfit for the role of a solid bridgehead for Russian troops.

That’s according to the Institute for the Study of War think tank, Ukrinform reports.

Continued Ukrainian strikes on Russian military targets in occupied Crimea appear to be forcing the Russian military to deploy additional air defense capabilities to the peninsula to protect existing bases and supply routes, while further Ukrainian strikes on such air defense assets could render the peninsula unsuitable for the role of a bridgehead for the Russian military.

ISW analysts recalled the statements by Kyrylo Budanov, the head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, that Russian troops have deployed a modernized S-500 air defense system in Crimea. The Russians took this step in order to strengthen the air defense umbrella over Crimea. Budanov added that the Russian army had not previously used the S-500 air defense system in combat operations.

Forbes magazine reported on June 12 that the Belbek airfield in occupied Crimea is becoming a trap that exhausts Russian air defenses after several successful strikes by Ukraine, targeting air defense systems around the airfield. Forbes estimated that the U.S. military's recent strikes alone could have destroyed elements of four to five S-400 batteries, even though the Russian military has more than 50 S-400 batteries in service.

In addition, data from OSINT analysts involving fresh satellite images appeared on X, showing that Russian troops had deployed 17 barges by the Crimea Bridge, which connects the occupied Crimea with the Krasnodar Territory in Russia.

Russian troops likely hope that the barges will protect the bridge from strikes by Ukrainian naval drones. Earlier, eight such barges were installed on the south side of the bridge for the same reasons.

Analyzing all of Ukraine's current efforts aimed at weakening Russia’s air defense capabilities in Crimea, ISW experts suggest that such measures can have an impact. This campaign could force Russia to pull more air defense assets to Crimea, making them vulnerable to further strikes by Ukraine. ISW has already assessed that the Armed Forces may be running a long-reaching campaign aimed to weaken Russia's air defense system, which could allow Ukraine to use manned aircraft (namely F-16 fighter jets) more effectively in the long run. The West has long supported Ukraine's right to strike Russian military targets in the occupied Crimea, so the Armed Forces of Ukraine could repeat their successful strikes on military targets on Russian soil if the West approved such strikes in the Russian rear, and not just along the border, analysts believe.

As Ukrinform reported earlier, Russia’s air defense servicemen received a "recommendation" to start evacuating their families from the temporarily occupied Crimea.

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