With the escalation of the controversy over an expected Ukrainian counter-attack, which Russian circles expect to include the southern regions along the coast of the Sea of Azov, the situation around Crimea seemed to raise serious concern for Moscow in light of the escalating volume and quality of bomb attacks targeting military and oil facilities in the region. Especially against the backdrop of Ukrainian officials repeating that “recovering all the territories” is the main objective of the fighting in the next phase.
The announcement of the leadership of the Black Sea Fleet to strengthen its combat and armament capabilities indicated the nature of Moscow’s concerns. Fleet Commander Viktor Sokolov announced Friday, in an interview with Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper, which is close to the Ministry of Defense, that the Black Sea Fleet has “increased the protection of its bases from Ukrainian drone attacks at the surface level as well as underwater.”
According to him, the enemy, “deprived of the ability to operate at sea, focused its efforts on carrying out sabotage operations and terrorist attacks on fleet facilities and vital infrastructure in Crimea.”
“In connection with the threat of attacks by surface and underwater robotic systems, we have increased the technical means to protect the main base of the fleet and the places where the ships are moored, equipped with optical-electronic and radio control posts,” Sokolov said.
He added that the fleet forces carried out extensive work to remove mines and clear the areas surrounding the peninsula, which increases the difficulties of launching attacks on the region, praising the work of the fleet’s minesweepers in this regard.
He believed that the measures taken help expand the areas of use of the ports of the “new regions” in various types of maritime transport. According to the general, “the forces of the Black Sea Fleet carry out missions to cover important military bases and installations and vital infrastructure on the territory of the Crimean peninsula from attacks by suicide planes and hostile sabotage groups, in conjunction with their work to confront the threat of mines planted around the region.”
He added that for early detection of air attack weapons, including drones, the fleet, along with the Air Force, has significantly increased the radar control area in the airspace.
He added that among the steps taken to enhance the protection of the peninsula, “a single information field has been formed that includes, among other things, military aircraft and helicopters of the Naval Air Force of the fleet, which increases the capabilities of providing the forces with the necessary data in a timely manner.”
In order to strengthen the air defense of the basic facilities, additional military capabilities have been attracted that have entered field combat service to tackle air defense tasks alongside the crews of regular ships.
The military official said that the Kiev regime is regularly trying to expand its capabilities in attacking Crimea. So, on May 7, the Armed Forces of Ukraine struck Sevastopol with 10 drones, but the Russian air defense repelled the attack. The day before, two Ukrainian Grom-2 tactical missiles had been shot down over the peninsula, with no one hurt. Air defense also repelled drone strikes in Crimea on an almost daily basis since the beginning of the month.
Russia’s preparations on the peninsula coincided with the announcement of the reinforcement of offensive forces in the Donetsk region in general and on the Bakhmut front in particular. In preparation for the replacement of the “Wagner” units, which are in conflict with the regular military establishment, and announced a few days ago their intention to withdraw from Bakhmut, the President of the Russian Republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, announced the dispatch of “one of the most ready and effective units of the Russian National Guard to the special military operation area.” .
The head of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, invited the Minister of Defense, Sergei Shoigu, as reported by the German news agency, to visit the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine to see the progress of the fighting firsthand. “In light of the difficult operational situation and your years of combat experience, I ask you to come to Bakhmut, which is under the control of Russian military units, and assess the situation for yourself,” Prigozhin wrote in an open letter to Shoigu, posted via the Telegram app. Relations between Prigozhin’s forces and the Russian Defense Ministry had deteriorated, with the Wagner leader complaining about a lack of ammunition and directing personal attacks to Shoigu. Some promised to invite Friday, mocking Shoigu, especially in light of the reference to his “many years of combat experience”. Although Shoigu holds the title of military general, he did not serve in the armed forces.
Kadyrov wrote on his channel in the “Telegram” application: “The 96th Operations Regiment from the North Caucasus region of the Russian National Guard, one of the most combat-ready and effective National Guard divisions, set off from the Chechen Republic to the area of the special military operation.”
The head of Chechnya demonstrated the high competence of soldiers with combat experience by participating in the most difficult positional battles and special events within the framework of a special military operation, as well as in the fight against international terrorism on the territory of the republic. Earlier, Kadyrov said that several units of the “Ahmad” regiment had moved towards Artyomovsk (Bakhmut), expressing confidence that the city “will be liberated soon.”
On Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry denied reports that Ukrainian forces had made gains in the battle for control of Bakhmut. The Russian ministry said on the “Telegram” application that “the data that was published through the isolated Telegram channels regarding (breakthroughs in defense lines) in several places do not correspond to reality.”
And the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense had stated that the Kiev fighters had achieved territorial gains, not far from the besieged city of Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region. “Our defenders advanced two kilometers in the Bakhmut region,” said Deputy Defense Minister Hana Maliar. It added that “no sites were abandoned in the city itself during the week, and that the Russian enemy suffered heavy losses.” Many Russian war correspondents and military bloggers had earlier reported on successful attacks by Ukrainian forces near Bakhmut, along with speculation about the start of a long-awaited counter-attack by Kiev. The Russian military command said: “The general situation in the area of the special operation is under control.” Regarding Bakhmut, the ministry referred only to “the continued liberation of the western part of Artyomovsk (the Soviet name for the city), with the support of the air force and artillery.”
Sweden, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, has announced its readiness to include Wagner on the EU’s list of terrorist organizations. “Sweden is ready to work towards reaching a consensus within the European Union to put Wagner on the European Union’s list of terrorist organizations as soon as the legal conditions are met,” Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Bilstrom told Dagens Nyheter. On Tuesday, the French National Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the French government to “mobilize diplomacy” to include the group in this list in order to punish members of “Wagner” and their supporters more effectively. The Swedish Foreign Minister added to the newspaper that “the Wagner Group committed terrible violations, especially in Sudan, Mali, Syria and Ukraine.” “For the group to be subject to EU sanctions related to terrorist organizations, a judicial authority or an equivalent competent national authority, such as a court or prosecutor, must decide to open an investigation against the group or charge it with committing” a terrorist act, he explained. The foreign ministers of the 27 EU countries will meet Friday in Stockholm.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace believes that prosecuting the Russian mercenary group “Wagner” in UK courts may have a greater impact than banning it as a terrorist organization. And the British “PA Media” agency quoted Wallace as saying that he could not advise the victims to take such action, but he seemed to call for “hitting Wagner in its financing,” saying that mercenaries who “do not get paid do not stay in the air.” This came during his speech in the House of Commons while receiving questions about his statement in which he announced that the United Kingdom would donate Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Ukraine. Wallace faced calls from several parties to ban Wagner.
Politically, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov defended the “legal basis” for his country’s military operations in Ukraine. He said during his participation in a forum held in the northern capital, St. Petersburg, that “the implementation of the Russian special operation in Ukraine is in accordance with the United Nations Charter, and that Moscow has notified the UN Security Council of this.”
Lavrov added, “The special military operation is being carried out on the basis of Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, which provides for the right to individual and collective self-defense, which was immediately notified to the UN Security Council.”
Lavrov repeated his country’s criticism of the West, which “is trying cynically to accuse Russia of violating international law, even though it ignored international conventions in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya.” He added, “Western elites are trying to divide the world into democracies and authoritarian regimes.”
On the other hand, Lavrov stressed that Russia “constantly supports respect for international law, of which the United Nations Charter remains the main source for strengthening legal and democratic principles of communication between states. To this end, we will continue to help strengthen the central coordinating role of the international organization in global affairs.
Lavrov pointed out that the West “ignored and violated another basic principle of the charter of the international organization, which is non-interference in internal affairs,” recalling the West’s support for the “color revolutions” that took place in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. He supported the (bloody coup) in Kiev in February 2014, and attempts to repeat the scenario of violent seizure of power in Belarus in 2020.
Lavrov touched on the decisions of the International Criminal Court that announced the prosecution of President Vladimir Putin, considering them “scandalous and politically biased.” He added: “A striking example of a system based on Western rules is a body such as the International Criminal Court. And this truly sham court, which has become an obedient tool in the hands of the Anglo-Saxons, continues to show political prejudice and incompetence. (..) Its connection to regional issues never contributed to the political settlement of conflicts, but rather exacerbated them.
He pointed out that “this structure is currently going towards taking new scandalous decisions, including expanding the scope of judicial coverage unilaterally, in violation of international law, and ignoring the immunities of state leaders.”