Russian officials flailing amid fears Ukraine could launch operation to liberate Crimea: report
Photo via AFP

On Monday, The Daily Beast reported that Russian officials are sounding the alarm — and internally seeking to dispel security fears — amid signals that Ukrainian forces are considering an operation to liberate the Crimean Peninsula from Russian control.

"Russian MP Andrei Gurulyov on Sunday urged Moscow to determine the risk of Ukraine and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization launching an attack on Crimea, which Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Russian MP Mikhail Sheremet warned that Ukrainian troops will suffer a 'final crushing blow' if they launch an attack on Crimea," said the report. "In an apparent attempt to temper fears that Ukraine would go after Crimea, the chairman of the Federation Council’s committee on defense and security, Viktor Bondarev, warned Monday that he doesn’t think Ukraine has the firepower to take back Crimea. 'Ukraine has neither the resources, nor the military force, nor the support of the Crimeans for the promised offensive on the peninsula,' Bondarev said, adding, '‘Crimea is ours’ is not only a slogan and a hashtag. It is an unshakable reality.'"

Russia has occupied Crimea — one of the most ethnically Russian portions of Ukraine — since 2014, when they seized and annexed it under an illegitimate "referendum." It has served as a major base of operations for the Russian Black Sea Fleet, and is therefore a massively strategic military asset for Russian forces.

"The Russian officials' commentary comes after a flurry of Ukrainian officials signaled over the weekend that Ukraine is preparing to kick Russia out of Crimea. Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Volodymyr Havrylov, told Sky News he predicted Ukrainian forces could be in Crimea by the end of the year," said the report. "'It's only a matter of time and, of course, we would like to make it sooner than later,' he said, adding that the timeline is uncertain. His commentary on the timeline echoed what the top Ukrainian official in charge of Crimea told The Daily Beast. The official, Tamila Tasheva, had said Ukraine could take back Crimea by spring or summer of next year, although she said she thinks it could happen sooner. Tasheva, too, stressed that the exact timeline remains to be seen."

Aided by military and financial support from U.S. and NATO allies, Ukraine has fiercely resisted the current Russian invasion, which Putin initially sold as a "special operation" to "denazify" the country.

The invasion has proven to be a disaster for Russia, with its economy reduced to the brink by Western sanctions, and widespread unrest and discontent as Putin calls up a draft to back up his army after a series of retreats from their initial positions.