Explosions in Crimea: how will Russia react?

The exact cause of the latest explosions in Crimea, which Russia has occupied since 2014, has yet to be identified. Russia says "sabotage" was behind the blasts and has announced it will investigate evidence of a drone attack on the arms depot. Commentators speculate on what action Russian President Vladimir Putin will take.

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Telegram.hr (HR) /

Peninsula has key importance

Russia will defend the occupied Crimea with vehemence, stresses Telegram.hr:

“The geopolitical and military importance of Crimea far exceeds the importance of the other territories it has occupied so far. Therefore, a destroyed plane in Crimea is of far greater consequence than if the same type of plane were shot down in Donbas. So we must bear in mind that the Russians will see not only the peninsula but also the operational base from which Crimea is attacked as a defence priority. Meanwhile, Russian propaganda will continue to spread fairy tales about saboteurs or carelessly discarded cigarette butts leading to accidental explosions in the interior of Crimea, far beyond the range of the projectiles Ukraine is currently known to possess.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Putin under tremendous pressure

The Russian president will be forced to respond, according to Le Monde:

“By declaring on August 9 that 'the war in Ukraine began with Crimea and must end with its liberation,' Zelensky showed that he is thinking less than ever about negotiations as he is about to play new cards in the ongoing war of attrition. Vladimir Putin is under pressure and will again have to factor in Kyiv's resilience. ... Because he is trapped in a paradigm that perceives Crimea as a red line, he will have no choice but to escalate if the attacks on the peninsula, for which Ukraine is considered responsible, continue.”

France Inter (FR) /

Proof of Russian military's attrition

France Inter is convinced that Ukraine is behind the attacks and notes:

“To understand the relevance of this circumstance, it helps to take a look at a map: any point in Crimea is more than 250 kilometers away from the Ukrainian defence line. Reaching this area requires sophisticated weapons and people who can get as close as possible to the targets. It necessitates precise long-range missiles, which the US refused to supply, or drones controlled by teams on the ground, or even commandos made up of infiltrated Ukrainian 'partisans'. In any case, the destruction of an air base on August 9 and several ammunition depots yesterday [Tuesday] is a humiliation for Vladimir Putin and, above all, proof of the attrition of the Russian forces.”

Krym.Realii (UA) /

The secret service is also weak

The fact that the Russian secret service FSB was unable to prevent the recent strikes on Crimea does not reflect well on its professionalism, columnist Vitaly Portnikov writes in Krym.Realii:

“The strikes on military facilities in occupied Crimea are not just a blow to weapons arsenals. I am sure that this also ends the myth of Crimea as 'sacred', a fiction cultivated by Russian propaganda and personally by Vladimir Putin since the very first days of the annexation of the peninsula. ... After the events of several summer days in Crimea, it truly seems that the FSB can now compete with the Russian army in terms of efficiency and ability to respond to real challenges.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Putin didn't see this coming

Corriere della Sera notes an unexpected turn of events:

“Yesterday a series of heavy explosions again endangered Russian facilities in a region that until recently was considered absolutely safe. It is quite possible that more generals will be dismissed in Moscow as a result. But the conflict is taking an unexpected turn that allows the assumption that if Vladimir Putin had known six months ago that his men would become embroiled in a complicated positional war that could even jeopardise his swift military occupation of Crimea eight years ago, he probably never would have given the order to attack Kyiv on February 24.”

Gordonua.com (UA) /

An unusually weak reaction

Oppositional Russian journalist Alexandr Nevzorov finds it strange that Russia has so far not responded militarily to the strike. On Gordonua.com he writes:

“The only surprise was that, for the first time, Russia reacted by sadly tucking its tail between its legs. It did not respond with its usual heroic attacks on hospitals or missile strikes on kindergartens. Instead, it mumbled something weak about security measures. Putin's war behemoth seems either mortally wounded or quite scared.”

The Spectator (GB) /

Ukrainians fighting more effectively

In this war, there are factors that are more decisive than military strength, historian and Russia expert Mark Galeotti points out in The Spectator:

“What it does underline is the degree to which the Ukrainians are adapting more quickly and effectively than their enemy, taking the huge amounts of western military assistance and using it in ways that maximise their own strengths and denies the Russians their own. This is not just a matter of sheer numbers of soldiers or weight of bombardment, nor even tactics and generalship. It is a war of imagination and adaptation, and there the Ukrainians have again demonstrated their edge.”

Club Z (BG) /

Russia is losing the initiative

The message the explosions in Crimea are meant to convey to the Kremlin is clear, says Club Z:

“Even if you win the war, you lose peace. The occupation could cost Russia more than the war itself, as was the case for the Americans in Iraq and the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. These explosions are a sign that Russia is gradually losing its strategic initiative in the war. This is now, with the help of Nato expertise and equipment, in Ukrainian hands. Kyiv is on its way to putting the Kremlin in checkmate with precision missiles, drones and sabotage. At the same time Russia continues to use World War II methods at the operational and tactical level.”

Spotmedia (RO) /

Vulnerability exposed

Even though Kyiv has not yet claimed responsibility for the explosions, Spotmedia assumes that it was behind the attack:

“Ukrainian generals have discovered the effectiveness of destroying transport infrastructure, ammunition depots and equipment behind front lines. Such strikes block the enemy's initiative so they lack the resources for an attack plan. Any offensive is slowed down and the morale of the enemy army suffers greatly. The fact that Ukrainian forces are now operating in Crimean territory exposes a great weakness on Russia's part: Russia believed that this area, which served as a launching pad for Moscow's troops to reach southern Ukraine and as the key area for the recovery and replacement of troops, was safe.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Threat of further escalation

Zelensky's announcement that he plans to retake Crimea could have severe consequences, columnist Domenico Quirico fears in La Stampa:

“Perhaps Putin and the Russians - by this I mean Russians who support the [so-called] special operation out of old imperialist convictions or to avoid getting in trouble - can accept having to give up parts of the Donbas in the face of a major Ukrainian counter-offensive supported by the US and Britain, perhaps not only with weapons. ... But Crimea is a different matter. ... For Russia, an invasion of Crimea is a direct attack on its territorial integrity, the equivalent of marching on Moscow, proof of the will to destroy the Russian unity that Putin has been building up for twenty years with effective domestic success.”