Ukraine planned to ‘retake’ Crimea in 2023 – former commander
Ukraine’s armed forces were reportedly preparing for an assault on Crimea, to “retake” the peninsula which voted to reunite with Russia in 2014. A former Ukrainian commander told the Economist that the operation was planned for 2023, but declined to give more details.
Former air assault commander, Mikhail Zabrodsky informed the outlet that if the army announced its intentions on social media or television, it would “never achieve anything.” He did admit, however, that an operation designed to retake the peninsula would not be a “senseless frontal assault” and would be done using a combination of land troops, sea landings, and air attacks, including the use of drones.
“We will surprise people—and many times—again,” he said.
However, Zabrodsky, who claims to remain close to the military planning process in Kiev, stressed that there are still many battles to win before the army could consider a timeframe for such an attack.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously claimed that Ukraine was planning to eventually mount an offensive on the peninsula and the Donbass region. He said this was one of the reasons he ordered Moscow's offensive, earlier this year.
Military experts have warned that an effort to forcefully retake Crimea or the territories of the Donbass republics, which recently joined Russia after holding public referendums, could prove costly for Kiev and drive Moscow to escalate, perhaps even to the use of tactical nuclear weapons.
“There is a real prospect that things will end in a bloodbath. That is an operation Ukraine does not need,” retired navy captain Andrey Ryzhenko told the Economist.
Top US General Mark Milley said earlier this month that the probability of a Ukrainian military victory which included taking Crimea was “not high” and not likely to be happening “anytime soon.”
Nevertheless, Kiev has insisted it is determined to seize the peninsula, with President Vladimir Zelensky saying he has no desire to seek a peaceful settlement to the ongoing conflict with Moscow without “de-occupying” the territory.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Gavrilov also suggested earlier this month that Ukrainian forces could step into Crimea “by the end of December.”
Crimea overwhelmingly voted to join Russia in 2014 following violent riots in Kiev that ousted democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovich. This autumn, the two Donbass republics, as well as Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions, also voted to become part of Russia in referendums not recognized by Kiev or its Western backers.
In late September, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow would defend its new territories “with full force and all the means at our disposal.”