NewsIs a major strike being prepared? Even Moscow doesn't have this much protection

Is a major strike being prepared? Even Moscow doesn't have this much protection

Is a major strike being prepared? Even Moscow doesn't have this much protection
Images source: © GETTY | Anadolu Agency
12:45 PM EDT, October 1, 2023, updated: 7:04 AM EDT, October 25, 2023

At the moment, Crimea is better protected than Moscow and has more anti-aircraft systems than Königsberg. Despite this, Ukrainians regularly manage to hit it with great precision. For both sides, Crimea is so important that the fight for it will last until the end.

Ukrainian politicians have been saying for nine years that the recovery of Crimea is their key objective. One of the most important demands, with which President Volodymyr Zelensky went to the elections, was the issue of regaining the strategic peninsula. He also spoke about it four months before the start of a full-scale war.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov then stated that it is "provocative" and "aggressive rhetoric from Kyiv". For Vladimir Putin, Crimea is also extremely important. Even more so in terms of image than territory.

Putin dreams of restoring Russia's greatness and rebuilding the empire. Hence the subsequent wars fought - with Georgia, Chechnya, and finally with Ukraine. After the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Alexei Venediktov, the editor-in-chief of Echo of Moscow, said to the Russian president: "Now they will call you 'Putin the Crimean'". The dictator visibly brightened then. This is exactly how he wanted to be remembered in the annals of history.

The apple of my eye

For centuries, Crimea has been a crucial point in the Black Sea. Crimean ports were the main trading centers for Ukrainian grain and coal, but also the primary bases for the Russian Black Sea Fleet, which allowed the Russians to control traffic throughout the northern part of the sea. Therefore, its belonging to Ukraine was a thorn in the side, even though Ukrainians allowed the Kremlin to use the base in Sevastopol.

Even before the occupation of the peninsula in 2014, the Russians significantly strengthened the forces of the Southern Military District. Within three years from 2013, four divisions, nine brigades, and 22 regiments were formed.

- The district troops received new combat aircraft and missile systems S-300V4, S-400, Buk-M2, and anti-aircraft systems Pantsir S-1. As a result, the effectiveness of the anti-aircraft defense system in the southwestern strategic direction has increased one and a half times - said then the head of the Russian defense department Sergey Shoygu.

In 2016, the first major maneuvers were carried out in Crimea. Among other things, the latest anti-aircraft systems were used - S-300V4, S-400, Buk-M2. Today, the first two constitute the power of Russian anti-aircraft defense on the peninsula. At the lowest level, they are supported by Pantsir-S1.

- Crimea is better and more densely covered than Moscow itself. If the most modern anti-aircraft systems S-400 reach there, and they will not be able to manage with us, it is a matter of the quality of the installations. Then buyers on world markets, starting from Brazil, and ending in Indonesia and Malaysia, will seriously consider whether they need such a weapon - noted Ukrainian expert, Col. Petro Czernyk in a conversation with ArmiyaInform.

Until now, the Russians had five batteries of the slightly older version of the S-400 Triumf system deployed in Crimea. Although they have been lauded by the Russians for years as the most modern in the world and eagerly bought by foreign customers, including Turkey, they have been unable to cope with the massive and well-organized attacks by the Ukrainians.

S-400 - a cap for billions?

In less than a month, the Russians lost two sets of S-400 systems. In both cases, they were destroyed from the air. The first S-400 was hit on August 23, most likely with the help of Neptune maneuvering missiles. The same ones that sank the missile cruiser "Moscow". The battery protected the northwest approaches to Crimea. Its liquidation opened the way for the Ukrainians to the interior of the peninsula.

On the very next night, 42 Ukrainian drones broke through a gap in the air defense system over Crimea. Among other things, they attacked the barracks of the 126th Guard Coastal Defense Brigade of the Black Sea Fleet. Ukrainian intelligence reported three Russians killed and several dozen wounded, and - more importantly - the destruction of ammunition and fuel depots.

Another S-400 system was lost the same night when ships in Sevastopol were destroyed. This time, the Ukrainians struck using the Storm Shadow systems and cleverly tricked Russian defenses. The Russians mainly shot down ADM-160B MALD decoys, which imitate missile projectiles, distracting from the actual missiles. Shortly thereafter, the S-400, the large landing ship "Minsk", and the submarine "Rostov on Don" were billowing smoke.

For Russia, it was a severe blow. Not only does the cost of one vehicle amount to about 40-50 million dollars, but another myth about the "excellence" of Russian systems has also fallen. It turns out that it is incapable of stopping modern missile systems used in accordance with the NATO doctrine. This, in turn, can affect Russian arms contracts.

Power on clay feet

Crimea has become an extremely important point for the Kremlin not only politically and image-wise, but also militarily. It is currently the main transshipment hub for army supplies and illegally exported grain from Ukraine. Russians have created logistic centers there. Therefore, the weakness of anti-aircraft systems is not the best prognosis for the coming months.

The Russians have sent their select units to Crimea. The destroyed systems belonged to the 31st Air Defense Division of Simferopol, which consists of two regiments - the 12th and 18th anti-aircraft missile regiments, each having three divisions. Each unit consists of four batteries, but only one has eight vehicles with four launchers each. The rest are a radio engineering battery, a technical battery, and a direct protection unit, which is equipped with the short-range Pantsir-S1 systems. This unit is responsible for the direct protection of missile and radar systems.

In theory, 48N6 missiles, which are used to destroy maneuvering projectiles, have a range at the lowest altitudes up to 150 km, and 96N6 missiles, which are used to destroy ballistic missiles, up to 60 km. However, their efficiency and effectiveness is very low, which was demonstrated by the attack on Sevastopol. The defense was not only deceived, but also lost a very valuable set.

Concerns have already arisen in the Kremlin that, despite the high saturation of anti-aircraft defense batteries, it will not be possible to adequately protect the ports in Sevastopol or Theodosia. Not to mention other cities, which do not have such dense defense.

Crimea is currently better protected than Moscow, but it is starting to slip out of Putin's hands.

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