Ukraine should abandon its targeting of Crimea and focus on breaking through Russian lines instead, US military officials told CNN on Friday.
Kiev has stepped up its attacks on the Russian peninsula in recent weeks, with Moscow claiming that the strikes are an attempt to distract from failures on the battlefield.
Since last month, Ukraine has hit the Crimean Bridge – which links the peninsula to the Russian mainland – with naval drones, aerial drones, and long-range missiles. In the last week alone, Russian air defenses thwarted an attempted missile strike on the bridge, and downed 20 drones bound for unspecified targets further inland on the peninsula.
- This strategy of deep strikes has “knocked the Russians off balance a bit, but it is not doing anything decisive,” an anonymous “senior defense official” told CNN. “And it would probably be better for everyone for them to just focus on the counteroffensive.”
- Ukraine launched its long-anticipated counterattack against Russian forces in early June, aiming to push south through the Zaporozhye region and reach the city of Melitopol near the Sea of Azov, which would split the Russian front and cut off Russia’s land access to Crimea.
However, the operation has cost Kiev more than 43,000 troops and nearly 5,000 pieces of heavy equipment thus far, according to the latest figures from the Russian Defense Ministry.
Ukrainian forces have failed to penetrate even the first line of Russia’s multi-layered network of defenses in some areas, leading Western officials to privately pronounce the offensive a failure, according to recent media reports.
Amid the stalled effort, Kiev’s attacks on Russian civilian infrastructure are “acts of desperation” aimed at drawing attention away from its military failures, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has stated.
Officials in Washington see things similarly, according to CNN’s report.
“The reality is this offensive does not have some eternal runway to go on through the fall,” a Pentagon source told the network.
“I’m not too optimistic that we’ll be at the Sea of Azov by Christmas,” another military official said.
- While the report paints a grim picture for Ukraine, officials in Kiev insist that they will achieve their objectives, with Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba stating this week that he “doesn’t care” how long it takes. In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin has characterized the Ukrainian offensive as “suicidal,” and accused Ukraine’s Western backers of pushing Kiev to “wage the war to the last Ukrainian.”