Vladimir Putin claims that Ukraine ‘attacked Crimea bridge’
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Vladimir Putin has been warned Ukraine could destroy Russia’s vital infrastructure and “neutralise” their advantage that could the prized annexed peninsula of Crimea recaptured within months. Putin was hit by a crushing blow in October when the Kerch Bridge linking Crimea and Russia was rocked by a huge explosion that saw parts of the structure collapse into the sea. Crimea is home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and numerous military airports and bases, and is also critical for operational and logistical support of Russia’s southern front in Ukraine. Putin blamed Kyiv and called it a “terrorist attack”.
But retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, the former Commanding General of the US Army Europe, believes Ukraine could soon launch an “attack led by armoured forces to isolate Crimea”.
He believes Ukraine can recapture the prized annexed peninsula by the end of August, and explained how President Zelensky’s troops can strike that “decisive” blow.
Lieutenant General Hodges told Express.co.uk: “Ukraine, despite being at a significant cost, can actually hold Russia back. They can focus on building a large armoured force.
“You will see a significant move that will help isolate Crimea, which is the decisive terrain. Once they can get Crimea, then the other stuff can wait and will follow.
“They won’t adopt a Pac Man strategy and work their way through Donbas but a decisive stroke would be to isolate Crimea.”
Lieutenant General Hodges said if Ukraine is able to destroy the two routes connecting Crimea to Russia, then the peninsula “looks increasingly like a trap”.
The retired US Army officer believes this can be successfully achieved by smashing “vulnerable Russian infrastructure” in Crimea that would “hamstring Russia’s ability to do anything”.
He continued: “There are two routes connecting Crimea to the mainland and if you could sever those with long-range fire, then Crimea looks increasingly like a trap.
“You can then start hitting the very vulnerable Russian infrastructure on the Crimean peninsula. Ukraine could recapture Crimea by the end of August.
“By going after Russian headquarters and infrastructure, that will neutralise the Russian advantage.
“When you start hitting those, you really hamstring Russia’s ability to do anything.”
When asked how he believes the next few months in the war will pan out, Lieutenant General Hodges replied: “Ukraine will launch an attack led by armoured forces to isolate Crimea.
“If they get what they need in terms of long-range weapons and if they are able to put together enough armoured formations – both Ukrainian, captured Russians and Western – they will have the combat power to overwhelm what I see as mostly long lines of trenches filled with unhappy, poorly led, recently mobilised soldiers.”
Earlier this week, President Zelensky’s top security official said Ukraine is preparing for a major escalation by Russia – possibly even in the next two to three weeks.
There has been speculation Putin could launch a huge mass-mobilisation of up to half-a-million troops as he looks to inject huge momentum into his crumbling war effort.
Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, warned the hardest fighting was yet to come and said the next few months would be crucial in deciding the course of the war.
He told Sky News in an interview on Tuesday at his headquarters in the capital Kyiv: “Russia is preparing for maximum escalation. It is gathering everything possible, doing drills and training.”
Mr Danilov did not rule out that Russian troops could attempt another attack from the north, south and east – mirroring what happened on February 24,2022 – possibly even to coincide with the first anniversary of the war.
The Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine continued: “We do understand everything is on the table. I can say that we are not excluding any scenario in the next two to three weeks.”
Mr Danilov also expects around half of more than 320,000 soldiers mobilised by Russia during the botched move in September would be involved in the second wave of fighting – whenever that might begin.
He said: “We went through an extensive difficult period, but I’m conscious the main fights are yet to come and they will happen this year, within two to three months. These will be defining months in the war.”
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