Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says panicked Russians have realized Crimea is “no place for them” after three mysterious and devastating strikes on the peninsula in the past week, allegedly carried out by Ukrainian agents.
In his latest video speech, Zelenskiy said long lines of cars crossing the Crimean Bridge leading to the Russian mainland proved that the “absolute majority” of Russian citizens got the message. At least 38,000 cars passed on Tuesday – a record.
The mass outing came after an ammunition depot and electrical substation exploded near the town of Dzhankoi, a major rail hub. Another apparent Ukrainian strike took place outside the regional capital Simferopol, where a Russian airbase was destroyed.
Zelenskiy hinted that similar inventive attacks could be expected. He urged Ukrainians living to Crimea and the south occupied in staying clear of enemy command posts and logistics bases. “Do not approach military objects of the Russian army,” he said.
These could also explode because of “clumsiness”, he added, calling his country’s fight against the Russian occupier a “people’s war of liberation”. Millions of Ukrainians were fighting against a “terrorist state”, he added.
In its latest intelligence update, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Russian military leaders were likely to be “increasingly concerned” about the upsurge in setbacks in Crimea. The Defense Ministry in Moscow pledged to fight what it called local “sabotage”.
Six suspected Islamist extremists were arrested on Wednesday, according to Moscow-appointed Crimea leader Sergey Aksyonov. It was unclear what relationship – if any – those arrested had to the recent attacks, which include a strike last week at Saky airfield.
At around 3 a.m. Wednesday, Russian strategic jets bombarded the port city of Odessa, firing two long-range missiles. Four people were injured. The rockets set fire to a recreation center in the area and several nearby houses.
The Kremlin’s initial war objective was to seize Odessa, a Russian-speaking city founded by Catherine the Great, and establish a link with the Moldavian enclave of Transnistria, where Russian “peacekeeping” troops are based. “.
The plan fell apart when Ukrainian forces disrupted attempts to capture the nearby town of Mykolaiv and sank Russia’s flagship aircraft carrier Moskva. Since then, the amphibious threat in Odessa has been largely neutralized, military analysts believe.
There are growing signs that Moscow plans to move forward next month with a “referendum” to annex the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. A Ukrainian counter-offensive to retake the city of Kherson occupied since March has yet to take place.
As the “vote” approached, Russian soldiers hunted down local community leaders. The latest victim was Svitlana Korotun, the mayor of the village of Verkhny Rohchyk. She was kidnapped for refusing to cooperate with the Russians and disappeared, regional officials said.
In the occupied southern city of Melitopol, explosions reportedly took place near a Russian command center. The details were sketchy. The region is at the center of a major partisan uprising, which has involved harsh countermeasures adopted by Russian troops, and the so-called “filtering” of entire districts.
Writing on Telegram, the exiled mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, said that a “strong explosion sounded near the enemy’s hideout” in the center of the city. “Let me remind you that one of the occupier commander’s offices is located here,” he said.
He added: “The earth will burn under the occupiers. This unshakeable truth is proven every day by our soldiers in the armed forces of Ukraine in southern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, at least two people have been killed in the latest shelling in Eastern Donetsk Oblast. Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor, reported that Russian forces had attacked the already destroyed towns of Avdiivka and Zaitseve, close to territory held by Russian-controlled separatists.