Crimea, which has always been in the international political discourse in “quotes”, has lost its "occupational exclusivity," and now stands on par with the rest of the occupied territories.
This is an important text, not only for understanding the situation, but also for forecasting and planning.
The start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022 — henceforth the "Great War" — radically changed the security and socio-economic situation on the occupied Crimean peninsula.
Since February 24, 2022, the Crimean peninsula has a new most important function — as a military foothold for:
— the land invasion by Russian troops into the territory of the Kherson, Mykolayiv, and Zaporizhzhya oblasts of Ukraine;
— the naval invasion of the Ukrainian coast on the Sea of Azov in Kherson, Zaporizhzhya. and Donetsk oblasts (Henichesk, Berdyansk, and Mariupol);
— missile strikes on almost all regions of Ukraine by sea-based Kalibr cruise missiles from ships of the Black Sea Fleet based on the Crimean peninsula in Sevastopol;
— rocket attacks on Kherson and Mykolayiv Oblasts from the Bal coastal missile systems from the staging ground on Cape Tarkhankut in western Crimea;
— air strikes against Odessa, Mykolaiv, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya oblasts by Russian military aviation based at airfields on the Crimean peninsula;
— air strikes on the southern regions of Ukraine using unmanned aerial vehicles operating from the northern regions of Crimea;
— blocking Ukrainian shipping in the Black and Azov Seas by the Russian Black Sea Fleet;
— the capture of Snake Island in February 2022.
In this regard, the Crimean peninsula has acquired new functions and specific areas of specialization of the front-line region:
— serving as the main rear logistics hub for building up, replenishing, and logistical support for Russian forces in the newly-occupied territories of Ukraine in Mykolaiv, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya Oblasts;
— a huge military hospital and base for the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded Russian servicemen.
Russia operates its main military logistics hub in Dzhankoy, in the north of Crimea. Railway and road routes intersect here, connecting all the main cities and regions of Crimea with the occupied southern regions of Ukraine, as well as Russia’s Krasnodar Krai via the Kerch Bridge.
Russian troops involved in combat in southern Ukraine will suffer significant losses. Their replenishment is carried out mainly at the expense of formations mobilized from Russia’s southern regions, arriving through the Kerch Bridge. The replenishment of military equipment is carried out from equipment removed from storage, including from 943th Mobilization Deployment Support Center in the Crimean village of Novoozerne (on Lake Donuzlav). The supply of new weapons is also carried out by rail from Russian territory via the Kerch Bridge, and partially by military transport aviation through Crimean airfields.
After the start of the war in 2022, fundamental changes took place in the economy of the occupied Crimea, directly related to the consequences of hostilities:
— the Russian occupation of Kherson Oblast in February 2022 led to the seizure by the Russian military of the main structure of the North Crimean Canal and the unblocking of the supply of water from the Dnipro River to occupied Crimea;
— the occupation of Kherson Oblast and southern parts of Zaporizhzhya Oblast created the opportunity for the Russian invaders to organize the capture and transport of large volumes of Ukrainian grain through Crimea for export by sea;
However, a few months later, as a result of actions by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, a fundamentally different situation began to take shape:
1) On April 13, 2022, the Ukrainian Navy attacked the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet — the missile cruiser Moskva. The cruiser was hit by two R-360 Neptune anti-ship cruise missiles from a coastal RK-360MTs anti-ship missile complex. As a result of the damage it sustained, the vessel capsized and sank. On the evening of April 14, the Russian Ministry of Defense admitted to the loss of the Moskva.
2) On June 17, 2022, the Ukrainian Navy, with a US-made Harpoon anti-ship missile, destroyed the rescue and tug vessel Spasatel Vasily Bekh of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, striking it from the shore as it was transporting ammunition, weapons, and Russian troops to Snake Island.
3) On June 20-26, 2022, the Ukrainian military used missile strikes to disable the offshore gas platforms of the Chornomorneftegaz production company, captured in 2014 during the occupation of Crimea. As a result, a fire broke out aboard the platform, and a huge gas flare continues to burn there to this day.
As a result, offshore natural gas production was completely halted, and the Crimean peninsula lost about 1.5 billion cubic meters of annual natural gas production.
4) On June 30, 2022, as a result of Ukrainian rocket and artillery strikes upon Snake Island, the Russians hastily evacuated their garrison from the island after 126 days of occupation. The loss of Snake Island, along with the evacuation of Russian military and radar equipment from Crimea’s oil and gas platforms, meant the Russian loss of full control over the northwestern Black Sea.
5) On August 9, 2022, the Ukrainian military attacked the Saki air base in the village of Novofedorovka on the western coast of Crimea near the city of Saki. The explosions destroyed 9 Russian aircraft. On August 16, an ammunition depot in Dzhankoy District of northern Crimea suddenly exploded.
These events caused a real panic among Russian tourists and Russian citizens who had moved to the peninsula during the years of occupation: in the following days, the number of cars leaving Crimea on the bridge across the Kerch Strait broke records.
Since the middle of 2022, the war has come directly to Crimea
Thus, since the middle of 2022, the war has come directly to Crimea.
There were several more attacks on Russian military installations in occupied Crimea, including an attack on the Kerch Bridge on October 8, 2022, which effectively turned the Crimean peninsula from a mere frontline region into a territory of limited hostilities.
This put an end to what had emerged as the main branches of the Crimean economy under the occupation, namely:
— prospects for the development of the defense industry;
— new investment projects;
— the construction of housing for Russian citizens who had moved to Crimea after the occupation of 2014;
— the real estate market;
— the Crimean resort and tourism industry.
Finally, the success of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the liberation of the occupied regions of Kharkiv and especially Kherson Oblasts has led Ukraine to form a principled position demanding the de-occupation of not only the territories occupied by the Russian Federation in 2022, but also the Crimean peninsula.
This is very important — Crimea, which has always been in the international political discourse behind closed doors, has lost its "occupational exclusivity" and is now being looked at for de-occupation in the same way as all the other territories Russia now occupies.
All this has created a fundamentally new atmosphere of expectation of a Ukrainian offensive against Crimea, which affects all spheres of life.