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Preparing for a Potential Attack in Ukrainian Crimea: Russia Braces for Conflict

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The Russian military is poised to launch an offensive into Ukraine’s Crimea, but military experts say it is already running out of ammunition.

“Everything is going according to plan,” the Kremlin-appointed head of the region, Sergei Aksenov, assured the state news agency RIA Novosti in an interview.

Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, before escalating its all-out invasion of Ukraine last year.

Aksionov said that satellite images showed lines of fortification extending from the isthmus to the peninsula and that trenches had already been dug on the beaches. He said that the Russian forces are “running unusually and asymmetrically,” without elaborating.

His comments came as military experts said Russia was running out of missiles and its push to invade Ukraine was likely to be seriously hampered by a shortage of ammunition.

The assessment came from the UK Ministry of Defense’s daily intelligence update on Friday.

The report said Russia now needed to accumulate a critical mass of newly manufactured missiles straight from industry before it would have the means to deliver a strike large enough to overwhelm Ukraine’s air defenses.

The ministry expected that the frequency of Russian missile attacks on Ukraine would decrease due to the missile problem.

The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War wrote in a report published Thursday that the supply issue is also likely to affect Russia’s attempts to resume its military offensive.

It said Russian forces may be preparing to resume an offensive around the front-line town of Wohlidar in eastern Ukraine, as evidenced by an exchange or transfer of forces in the Donbass region.

However, a Russian special unit of marines suffered significant losses when it tried to take the Wohlidar region in a three-week offensive in February, and the forces have already been reconstituted at least seven times, the think tank writes.

Ammunition is also an issue on the Ukrainian side. Mykhailo Podolak, an adviser to the presidential office in Kyiv, told Italian newspaper La Stampa that the country needed two more months to build up reserves for the planned spring offensive. “We need to increase the supply of 155mm heavy artillery shells and long-range missiles,” he said.

And independent military experts had previously mentioned an earlier date for a possible counterattack by Kiev. Podolyak estimated the need for armored vehicles to liberate more occupied territories at 400 to 500, a similar number given in the past by Commander-in-Chief Valery Zaluzhny. In addition, according to Podolyak, combat aircraft are needed to intercept ballistic missiles and control airspace.

He made no statement on the content of the planned counterattack, but said Russia had few options for its offensive actions. Podolak predicted that “active offensive operations of the enemy will continue in the direction of Bakhmut, Uhlidar, Liman and Sulidar.”

The military news came as Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin visited the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on Friday. She and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attended a memorial service for a soldier killed in the hotly contested eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut.

Zelensky on Thursday denounced large-scale Russian missile attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and called for further action against Russia during his nightly video address. He criticized the fact that a missile strike temporarily cut off the power supply to the Russian-occupied nuclear power plant in Zaporizhia.

Therefore, he said, Russia can no longer be a reliable partner in the nuclear field. Zelensky noted, “This means that the sooner the Russian nuclear industry becomes a target of sanctions, the safer the world will be. A terrorist state cannot be allowed to use nuclear facilities anywhere in the world for terrorism.”

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