The Sevastopol Attacks and the Potential End of Russian Control of Crimea.
What needs to happen.
The attacks last night against the key Russian naval base in Sevastopol are still burning as this is being written. Yet this was easily the most ominous event for Russian control of Crimea so far in the war—indeed for the whole Russian position from Crimea to the west (into Kherson). There are many variables that still need to be worked out, but assuming a few things (that the Ukrainians have the systems to keep this up, that the Russians cant fix their obvious air defense shortcomings, etc). I will touch on those points later in this post. However it makes sense to discuss what we have seen so far.
Why is it important that Sevastopol can be attacked so powerfully?
Basically Russian control of Crimea comes down to 2 things. The first is the Kerch Bridge (which the Ukrainians have been attacking regularly) and the Sevastopol Naval Base, which is the home of the Black Sea Fleet and has the most developed basing facilities in the Black Sea. The Russians need both to make sure supplies can get into Crimea (unless they want to send them overland through Ukraine, which is already difficult and will be increasingly so as the Ukrainians press forward with their counteroffensive while getting more ranged systems (ATACMS and Taurus really seem to be on their way).
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This map should give you an idea of why these two facilities are vital.
The Kerch Bridge is the preferred route for all heavy supplies (it has rail and road connection—though both have been put out of action for various periods). Thats why the Ukrainians have been trying to hit it for a year. Sevastopol, on the other hand represents both a base into which supplies can be sent by ship if necessary and also a naval base which can provide some protection to the Kerch Bridge and a base from which the Russians can present an offensive threat to Ukrainian shipping out of Odessa. The two work symbiotically to provide the Russians supply and control over Crimea. If one is fully put out of action, the other would be in real trouble.
What did we see last night?
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