Russian officials have declared an air raid alert in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol in anticipation of further attacks from Ukraine.
Sirens went off in the city early on Wednesday. Traffic on the Crimean bridge, linking the peninsula to Russia, as well as sea transport, were suspended.
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The alert comes amid a string of Ukrainian attacks in recent weeks in and around Crimea, which was seized and annexed by Moscow in 2014. Kyiv’s forces have struck a Russian air base on the peninsula and the Black Sea Fleet command post in Sevastopol, as Ukraine seeks to weaken Russia’s control over the water.
At the same time, amid disappointing results from Kyiv’s much-vaunted counteroffensive, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is seeking to rouse his country ahead of a winter campaign anticipated to be harsh.
‘A historic achievement’
Ukraine hopes that weakening Russian forces on the Black Sea will deliver an ultimate victory in the war. The “illusion” of Russia’s domination of Crimea and the Black Sea had been shattered, Zelenskyy told a meeting of the Crimea Platform on October 24.
“The Russian (Black Sea) fleet is no longer able to operate in the western part of the Black Sea and is gradually fleeing from Crimea,” Zelenskyy said. “And this is a historic achievement.”
The attacks have highlighted Kyiv’s growing capabilities, which include naval drones. Meanwhile, Moscow continues bombarding Ukraine from afar with long-range missiles and assault drones.
Last week, the Russian defence ministry said “a set of mine and anti-sabotage measures” in Sevastopol Bay had intercepted three unmanned Ukrainian boats.
Ukraine said on Wednesday that Russia had shelled more than 100 settlements over the last 24 hours; the highest number of attacks on any single day so far in 2023.
‘A question of time’
“We have not yet gained full fire control over Crimea and surrounding waters, but we will,” Zelenskyy told the attendees of the diplomatic initiative gathered in Prague. “This is a question of time.”
On Monday, the Ukrainian military claimed a successful attack on a Crimean Russian air defence base with naval drones and missiles.
As the strategy persists, and a downbeat analysis of Ukraine’s progress with its counteroffensive mounts, Zelenskyy sought on Tuesday to rouse his troops and country with a message of patience, perseverance and focus on the final goal.
“We live in a world that gets used to success too quickly. When the full-scale invasion began, many people around the world did not believe that Ukraine would survive,” the Ukrainian president said in his nightly video address on Tuesday.
“Glory to all those who do not retreat, who do not burn out, who believe in Ukraine just as they did on February 24, and who has been fighting for unwaveringly.”