They say that saboteurs and partisan groups are now preparing in the territory that was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.
Frustration and panic are rising, with everything from recruitment to soaring prices. Troubled Russian elites are trying to sell their houses and cottages, but are finding no buyers.
When Vladimir Putin launched his all-out invasion of Ukraine in February, few expected that nine months later Ukrainian forces would threaten to reclaim Crimea. However, that no longer looks like a military impossibility, after Kiev’s well-organized troops have shown that they can drive out Russian forces in offensive operations around Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine and Kherson in the south.
Tamila Tasheva, the permanent representative of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Crimea, has high hopes that the peninsula will end up in Ukrainian hands again.
– Yes, of course, it is quite possible that we will regain Crimea. Our goal is the rescue our entire territory, which of course includes Crimea – she told Politico.
Tasheva, a 37-year-old Crimean Tatar whose family lives on the peninsula, is busy making plans for what will happen after Crimea is “de-occupied” and crafting a legal framework to deal with the complex issues of transitional justice that will follow . She says that while Kiev would prefer to see the peninsula returned without a fight, “a military route may be the only solution.”
– The situation now is very different from 2014. We have a lot of communication with the people in Crimea and they are increasingly cutting rates because of the high prices of food and the shortage of medicine. And there was a boost in anti-war protests, especially since the beginning of recruitment and partial mobilization – he said.
Asked if people were forming anti-Russian partisan groups, she simply commented, “Of course they did.”
READ: Crimean Tatars trial – Military Court extends the detention
The difference between 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea and today comes down to the fact that Ukraine has a strong army and a determined leadership, and this affects the thinking of people in Crimea, she said.
Liberation easier than Kherson?
The liberation of Crimea can be an easier operation than the de-occupation of the Kherson region, according to military expert, reserve colonel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Roman Svitan.
In the Radio NV program, he told how the Armed Forces of Ukraine could liberate Crimea through non-contact warfare.
– We will not have to immediately enter Crimea to destroy the Russian troops. The task of every army is to destroy the enemy. And Crimea is a big trap for the Russian army. This is a big pitfall for an army if the enemy has ranged weapons. And we have it – says Svitan.
However, the expert notes that Ukraine needs more long-range weapons, either from the state-owned military industry Ukroboronprom or from Western partners.
– The destruction of Russian troops in Crimea will be carried out by non-contact warfare. And after the destruction, the liberation of Crimea will be much easier. Long-range weapons will simply destroy them – Svitan believes.
At the same time, the expert added, it is necessary to destroy the Crimean bridge.
– For that, it will still be necessary to hit the Crimean bridge again… The HARM systems will shut down all anti-aircraft defenses and our aviation will begin to act, as a supplement to long-range destruction systems. Because only capturing Crimea could be an even easier operation than moving the Russians from the right bank of the Dnieper – Svitan explained.
For Putin, Crimea has long been a “sanctuary” — he called it “an inseparable part of Russia” — and that has led many in the West to fear that it could become a strategic red line. In this sense, the main nuclear weapons rattler, former President Dmitry Medvedev, who issued ominous warnings about any attack on Crimea, hardly helped.
– Judgment day will come very soon. It will be very difficult to hide – said Medvedev, now the deputy president of the Russian Security Council, earlier this year in comments reported by the REUTERS news agency.
Since August, Ukrainians have repeatedly targeted Russian targets in Crimea, including air bases and ships. Tensions rose dramatically, however, after an October 8 explosion damaged the Kerch Bridge, a vital supply line between Russia and Crimea.
“We are preparing sabotage”
People in Crimea say the Russians are nervous and on the hunt for pro-Ukrainian sympathizers, fearing new acts of sabotage. Kiev has never been officially claimed responsibility for what is believed to be a truck bombing.
READ: Ukraine expands the list of Russian territories, the passports of which will not be recognized
– Then there was panic. Since then, officers and soldiers have been returning their families to Russia. And the rich are trying to sell their properties worth from 500,000 to 1 million dollars, but the market is dead – said one local IT worker.
– Because of the sanctions, many people have lost their jobs, and the prices of everything, especially food, have risen sharply, and there are not many choices either. If you were making $1,000 a month before February, now you have to have about $3,000 to be where you were, and how are you going to do that when the tourism industry is dead – he wonders.
Locals are angry that they can’t get medical help because the hospitals on the peninsula are full of Russian soldiers wounded in the fighting in Kherson and Donetsk.
As the situation worsened, more partisan cells were formed, they said.
– My group of patriots know each other well: we have studied and worked together for years and we trust each other — we prepare and understand that secrecy will determine the effectiveness of our actions – said one former banker, who is claimed to lead a seven- cell member.
Inspired by the Kerch Bridge explosion, his cell plans to sabotage military facilities using rudimentary explosives made from ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel.
– There are many provocateurs and the Russians are upset, so we are on our guard. We know other partisan groups, but do not actively communicate for security reasons. We have a deal with the police chief who understands that Russia is losing and is worried — he will give us the key to his arsenal when needed with our promise to put in a good word for him later — he added.
“Crimea is Ukraine”
Ukraine’s recent victories in northeastern and southern Ukraine are fueling confident talk in Kiev about Crimea, and since Russian forces withdrew from the city of Kherson, 80 miles (130 kilometers) from the northernmost tip of the peninsula, the chorus has only gotten louder as more of the peninsula moves closer to missile defense. reach of Ukrainians.
READ: The reason for launching the Russian Special Military Operation in Ukraine
Top Ukrainian officials are taunting Russia, saying Crimea will soon be under Ukrainian control — even by the end or early next year. Zelensky repeatedly returned to the topic: in October, he told the leaders of the European and American parliaments: “We will definitely liberate Crimea.”