Creating a New Chapter

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Russian soldiers have been building trenches on the Black Sea coast of the Crimean Peninsula, a Ukrainian territory Russia invaded and illegally annexed almost nine years ago in a move that now clearly presaged the wider war.

The trenches run in a zigzag pattern that runs along beaches and promenades that were once tourist attractions, as the Telegraph reported.

That digging came after Ukrainian partisans within Crimea blew up Russian army barracks and other targets. “Our agents worked pitch perfect,” the Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars Movement, a guerilla group, told the New Voice of Ukraine. “We worked on this ‘project’ for a long time and, of course, everything worked out for us. We will continue to destroy the Russian army from the inside.”

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces also blew up a crucial bridge in Crimea, one of Russia’s most embarrassing defeats in the war so far, according to the New York Times.

With the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion only a couple of months away, the prospect of Ukraine taking the fight to Crimea is becoming more likely, a remarkable turnabout for Russian forces who began the war thinking they would steamroll their way across Ukraine to victory.

Retired US Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the former commander of the US Army in Europe, recently said he expected Ukraine to liberate Crimea by next summer, Newsweek reported.

The Ukrainians’ success could present problems, however. As the Washington Post explained, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sees retaking Crimea as an essential condition for his country’s victory. But Russian President Vladimir Putin views the territory as an essential part of his legacy. In other words, if Russia loses Ukraine, Putin loses face. The issue is one of the many impasses that are preventing a diplomatic end to the fighting.

To complicate matters, historian and visiting professor at the London School of Economics Dominic Lieven noted that Putin actually has good arguments as to why Russia should keep Crimea. Speaking to Radio Free Europe, Lieven argued that Ukraine might be better off if Russian sympathizers in Crimea, the Donbas and other eastern Ukrainian regions were allowed to split off and join Russia if they really wanted to do so. That’s because they are more historically aligned with Russia.

For example, Russia won Crimea from the Ottoman Empire in 1783 and controlled it until 1954 when Soviet officials transferred it to Ukraine due to internal politics and power struggles, wrote the Wilson Center.

The peninsula’s next chapter is still being written, in blood.

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