This year, one of the main holidays of the occupied Sevastopol - the russian navy day - was overshadowed by a drone attack on the headquarters of the Black Sea fleet of the russian federation. Shortly after this event, multiple "bangs" occurred throughout the occupied peninsula. They have not stopped to this day, but they all have different nature and purposes.
On August 9, several explosions occurred at the Saky air base adjacent to the resort settlement of Novofedorivka. At that time, occupation "authorities" of the Crimea claimed that the cause of the explosions was "detonation of several rounds of ammunition due to a fire safety violation". Allegedly, the military equipment was not damaged, and only one local resident died as a result of the explosions. However, according to British intelligence, at least 8 aircrafts and several ammunition depots were destroyed.
Images of people fleeing the beaches and the peninsula in general have already been turned into memes and have been quoted numerous times.
A few days later, on August 16, a series of explosions was yet again heard in the occupied Crimea. In the morning, an ammunition depot exploded near Azovske village (Dzhankoi district) and has been detonating for almost a day. In Dzhankoi itself, a fire broke out at a transformer station. Explosions occurred at Hvardiiske air base as well (Simferopol district).
The occupation authorities no longer lied about "violation of safety regulations" and recognized that the explosions were sabotage. However, no more details were shared: neither who carried out the sabotage, nor how it was even possible in the "100% protected" Crimea.
But after that, truly strange events began occurring on the peninsula. In different parts of Crimea (Kerch, Sevastopol, Yevpatoria, Bakhchysarai) air defense systems (which had been "asleep" before for some reason) began to work and shoot down drones every day. And yet again, there was no explanation of where did they come from, who launched them and how.
Both official russian and Ukrainian authorities are silent. Dmitry medvedev even deleted his post about "doomsday" for Ukraine if it attacks Crimea.
OstroV tried to figure out who is responsible for the "bangs" on the occupied peninsula, what do the locals think about it and how will the situation develop.
What has actually happened
Roman Svitan, a reserve colonel and military expert, believes that the explosions in Crimea should be considered separately:
1) the attack on the air base and ammunition depot,
2) the work of local air defense systems against drones.
The expert believes that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are 100% behind the explosions at the Saky air base and the ammunition depot near Dzhankoi.
"All these actions were carried out by the Armed Forces of Ukraine. It was a complex operation in which the special, air and missile forces of Ukraine were involved", - he told OstroV.
Despite the fact that the Western media, with reference to their sources, claim that a Ukrainian sabotage group acted in this case, Roman Svitan believes that the Saky air base was attacked by 3-4 missiles from the territory of Ukraine.
"It could have been extended-range Harpoon missiles (SLAM modification), Neptune (based on X-35Y) with a range of up to 280 km. It could also have been a Ukrainian-assembled Hrim (Sapsan) missile which was meant to be sold to Saudi Arabia. There is a possibility that this transaction never happened, and the missile systems remained in Ukraine. We do not exclude the use of American ATACMS missiles either. No one confirms their transfer, but the style is very similar to the use of these particular missiles", - he added.
The expert draws attention to the fact that the enemy's air defense systems were disabled first, and then heavy missiles were launched.
"It was definitely a missile attack. This was not the work of reconnaissance and sabotage groups in its pure form. But the launch of missiles without destroying air defense systems is impossible (and they were destroyed). Most likely, an anti-radar attack was carried before the attack on the Saky air base. These could be HARM missiles with a range of up to 150 km. Our planes could approach from the sea at extremely low altitudes in order not to be detected, first hit the radars, and then launch heavy missiles. Or it could be another option for disabling air defense, about which we will find out later", - Roman Svitan explained.
The military expert also thinks that the Dzhankoi explosions at the ammunition depot and the transformer station may be related.
"We can also talk about an integrated approach here. The air defense system did not work, but it could be cut down after the transformer station was blown up. The fact is that all air defense and electronic warfare systems that protect such stationary objects are first powered from the main power system and only then the generator turns on. These explosions are connected", - he told OstroV.
According to The New York Times, which quotes a high-ranking Ukrainian official, an "elite Ukrainian unit" operating in the russian rear, is behind these explosions at the military base. The infamous terrorist Girkin-Strelkov speaks of kamikaze drones. Some russian media, citing their sources, also confirm a drone attack. Although no one explains how the UAVs flew to Crimea, because their average flight range does not exceed 100 km.
But Roman Svitan believes that judging by satellite images, a massive missile attack was carried out on the military depots near Dzhankoi, as a result of which the main hub for the distribution of ammunition to russian troops was hit.
“After the air defense systems were disabled, rockets were launched. I don’t think it was a reconnaissance group that entered Crimea and launched the drones. It would have been a very difficult operation, and we couldn’t launch a drone from the controlled territory because it would not have enough flight range. In addition, the russians did not launch the “interception" plan after the attack. They know exactly what happened: missiles hit and therefore they did not take any action to close the area to search for partisans. This means that they know exactly what and where it came from", - he says.
It is noteworthy that the Ukrainian leadership does not admit its involvement in these explosions.
Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, almost directly says that "we have nothing to do with it".
"What do we have to do with it? These are, perhaps, compensatory mechanisms for inefficient management within the armed forces of the russian federation", - he said on the air of one of the TV channels.
According to him, the reasons for the explosions could be anything: from the detonation of ammunition, which the russian defense ministry speaks of, to "bungling" in the russian army.
"Could it be someone from the partisan movement, which is gaining momentum? Of course, because the people who lived in the occupation understand that the time of the occupation is ending and you need to show your position. This is happening because the return of the occupied Crimea is a must", - he said.
Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak also commented on these explosions, calling them the "Demilitarization" operation in the style of exquisite workmanship of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
"The "Demilitarization" operation in the AFU’s style of exquisite workmanship will continue until the complete de-occupation of Ukrainian territories. Our soldiers are the best sponsors of our good mood. Crimea is Ukraine", - he wrote on Telegram.
Military expert Roman Svitan thinks that the Ukrainian tactics of not admitting involvement in the explosions and thus not disclosing their plans is correct.
"The Ukrainian command gently hints that this is our doing, but does not provide accurate information. And this is a very correct and smart move. The enemy must not know what our plan was, what tools we used and in which way. This is classified information, and, if the Armed Forces of Ukraine made it public, the enemy would be able to counteract in the future", - he said.
As for the russian "losses", the Saky air base explosions could destroy or disable more than half of russia's entire Black Sea naval aviation, European media reports. According to various sources, the invaders lost a large amount of military equipment, ammunition and air defense near Dzhankoi as well.
"These strikes caused direct technical damage to the russian army at the very least. But this is only the beginning of the demilitarization of Crimea, which was turned into unsinkable aircraft carrier, from combat units and ammunition stocks that could be delivered to the south of Ukraine. Decisions on striking depots and air bases are made on the basis of their importance and our fire range ability. There are still many of them. We have destroyed only 2-5% of the entire stock of weapons and equipment that is on the peninsula", - Roman Svitan says.
Air defense systems and UAVs
As for more than a dozen of downed UAVs, there are more questions than answers. From August 18, russian air defense began to shoot down drone after drone from Kerch to Sevastopol every day. One of them even fell on the roof of the russian Black Sea fleet headquarters.
Officially, Ukraine does not recognize these attacks, limiting itself to neutral comments in the style of "the demilitarization of the peninsula is proceeding according to plan".
The occupying authorities simply notify about the downed drones and other objects.
"Our air defense systems have downed yet another object near Belbek (from the Yevpatoria direction)", - "governor" of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev reported.
But he did not answer the main question: how did these "objects" get to the peninsula.
According to Roman Svitan, Ukraine is not involved in these attacks, the russians are behind them. Our country simply does not have UAVs that would fly so far.
"After heavy missiles struck Crimea’s Saky and Dzhankoi, the russians needed to find an excuse as to why the missiles were not intercepted by air defense. And they came up with the idea of launching simple Chinese drones that are allegedly intercepted by air defense. They show beautiful videos for the media that the air defense system is actually doing something. This is definitely not Ukraine’s doing, we do not have such drones that can reach so far. On average, a UAV operates in the range up to 80 km", - he told OstroV.
He notes that the first "false" UAV launch was actually carried out on the russian navy day in Sevastopol on July 31.
"They learned that Ukraine had missile systems that could reach Crimea, and therefore they were afraid to hold a naval parade of ships. In order to cover up the disruption of this parade, the FSB launched a drone that "blew up" in the headquarters area", - the expert noted.
By the way, at that time, the occupaton authorities admitted that the UAV that attacked the headquarters was launched from the territory of Sevastopol. Now very little information is given, which cannot but irritate local residents.
"We hear some shots from time to time, helicopters fly, they put the ships on display. And what are we shooting down? Zero information. If these are Ukrainian drones, how do they reach Sevastopol and Kerch? Why can't they be downed much sooner? These are not hypersonic missiles. And we seem to have the best air defense systems in the world. There is a feeling that this activity is being carried out for the sake of the show. This does not make it easier, because there have already been real explosions, and there is no guarantee that this will not happen again", - Sevastopol resident Maria told OstroV.
According to her, the tourism business suffers most of all. It has already been in a difficult situation because of the war. Now many of her friends are canceling their planned trips to Crimea, and those who already came to the seaside are leaving the peninsula in a hurry.
According to official statistics from the occupiers, the tourist flow in Crimea has halved. And this statistics does not include those who now refuse to visit it because of the explosions.
According to adviser to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Mykhailo Podolyak, there may be new attacks in the next two to three months, similar to the mysterious strikes on the Crimean air base, as well as a strike on russian military aircraft at the airfield.
Military expert Roman Svitan agrees with him. According to him, in the near future we should expect real strikes of Ukrainian missiles in Crimea (and not imaginary drones). It can be an air base, a large military depot, or even the Crimean bridge.
"Soon we will see the third run of Ukrainian missiles, which russian air defense will not be able to shoot down. And we will see it right away", - he said.
But the main target on the occupied peninsula should be the Crimean bridge, the military expert emphasizes.
"No matter how much troops and equipment we destroy in Crimea, if there is a supply line from the Krasnodar territory, it will delay time, but will not solve the problem fundamentally. In order to cut Crimea from deliveries of ammunition and replenishment of the entire southern group of russian troops, it is necessary to strike at the Crimean bridge and destroy it. After that, finish off the remaining military warehouses and then talk about some major changes to liberate the south of Ukraine and Crimea", - he said.
According to him, the attacks on the air base and warehouses were just a "beginner's exercise".
"The Crimean bridge is the most guarded facility. A layered defense of russian troops is deployed there. Therefore, you need to understand how you can get there, with what set of means, in what sequence, and so on. And only after that it will be possible to strike at the bridge. I understand that the attack on Saky and Dzhankoi was a practice of certain measures, which will later be applied to the Crimean bridge. As soon as our troops are able to do this, they will strike. We can get to the bridge with the same means that were used in Saky and Dzhankoi", - Roman Svitan said.
The fact that Ukraine considers the Crimean bridge, which connects the occupied peninsula with russia, as a legitimate military target, was recently stated by Mykhailo Podolyak.
"This is an illegal structure and the main supply gate for the russian army in Crimea. Such facilities should be destroyed", - he said in an interview with the Guardian.
Military expert Roman Svitan also noted the increased chances for the transfer of American 300-km ATACMS missiles to Ukraine. It is the successful attacks on Crimea (Saky and Dzhankoi), as well as the rather calm reaction of the russian federation to these events (no "doomsday"), that can convince American politicians to start supplying long-range weapons.
"We broke the ice with our means and preparation. And then it doesn’t matter anymore, if we strike on our own or they will supply long-range missiles. Now there are no arguments for opponents of transferring 300-km ATACMS missiles to us. Let's hope that this was the last "icing on the cake" for the transfer of these missiles to us. Based on the logistics, we should get them in September", - he said.
As for the expectations and moods of local residents, they are most vividly described by the news that the occupation authorities of Sevastopol started checking bomb shelters on August 22.
"Great progress. We started with the demilitarization of Ukraine, then everything went according to plan, later "we haven’t even started yet”, and now we are checking bomb shelters, testing air raid sirens, setting up additional roadblocks, and talking about the excellent work of air defense systems. Not only tourists leave, but also many locals who have the opportunity to live somewhere else in russia. Some of my friends who work remotely have already left to avoid stress. The overall narrative that we need to be done with it as soon as possible is spreading among the locals. Some say that it is necessary to destroy Ukraine once and for all, while others simply want to end this war and get back to their normal peaceful life. After all, any way you slice it, the war has gotten to Crimea", - local resident Svitlana told OstroV.
Andriy Andrieyev, OstroV