This week, a top Ukrainian general threatened to use long-range Western weapons to destroy a massive bridge connecting Russia to the annexed Crimean peninsula.
Major General Dmytro Marchenko claimed on Wednesday night that the 745-foot Kerch bridge was a viable military target in Kyiv’s ongoing struggle against Vladimir Putin’s invading forces.
The commander, who has been heading Ukraine’s defense of the Mykolaiv region in the south, described the £2.7 billion bridge as a “umbilical cord” supplying Russian reinforcements to the south.
When asked what Ukraine’s military intended to do with the modern weapons that Kiev is pleading with the West to supply, he told the publication that the bridge would be “our number one target.”
‘We have to tear this umbilical cord to cut off (Russian) reinforcements. As soon as it’s done, (Moscow) will panic,’ he said.
Ukraine has asked its partners to provide more and better weapons to the country, claiming that it cannot withstand Russia’s more powerful forces without additional assistance. Western weapons have been essential to the struggling country’s unexpected success thus far.
However, Western countries have been hesitant to deploy long-range weaponry capable of attacking farther inside Russian territory, afraid that doing so might entangle more countries in an even larger contract.
In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. The bridge’s construction was finished in 2018, and Russia has been utilizing the bridge to carry troops and military equipment to the Black Sea region.
On February 24, 2022, eight years later, when the invasion began, this was utilized as a launch pad for Russia to attack Ukraine.
Following Marchenko’s remarks, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated on Thursday that the bridge was properly safeguarded by Russia’s “preventive measures” and was safe to cross for travelers.
In reaction to his remarks, Ukraine’s military intelligence service published what looked to be complete drawings for the bridge, which spanned 242 pages.
Marchenko believes that such weapons would aid Ukraine in winning the war by the end of the summer, and that if they arrived sooner, Russian forces would be unable to dig in deeper and hold onto the region they have already taken.
‘Perhaps my information is not enough to predict this,’ he said. ‘But the fact that this will not end quickly is a fact. But then again: they will give us all the weapons that we need, the counteroffensive will probably end by the end of the summer.
He went on to say that never thought his soldiers would be facing down so many Russian enemies, and that a ‘point of no return’ had been reached on the issue of peace being reached with Russia.
We have already passed the point of no return. It was at the very beginning, when it was possible to stop all this, at the stage of negotiations, but after what they did, we passed the point of no return,’ he said.
‘And I will tell those who want peace and tranquillity there in any way, it will not be.’
On Friday, the Ukrainian military claimed it had hit a Russian ship transporting air defense systems to a strategic Black Sea island.
According to the navy, the Vasily Bekh was used to transfer ammunition, weaponry, and troops to Snake Island, which is critical for protecting maritime channels out of Odesa’s important port.
It did not specify how much damage the strike caused.
Snake Island, some 20 miles off the coast, became famous early in the conflict as Ukrainian border guards stationed there resisted Russian demands to surrender, using colorful rhetoric that became a rallying cry.
The Russian Black Sea fleet’s flagship, which was employed in the takeover of Snake Island, was sunk by Ukraine in April, a major victory for the outmanned and outgunned Ukrainian forces, who used US technology and intelligence to target the ship.
The Russians began installing an anti-aircraft missile system named TOR on the decks of their ships after the sinking of the flagship Moskva, the Ukrainian navy stated on Friday. That, it claimed, was insufficient to prevent Ukraine’s naval forces from ‘demilitarizing the Russian occupiers.’
The Russian authorities did not respond to the Ukrainian claim right away.
On Friday, Russia intensified its onslaught in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas area, leaving terrified people unsure of what the future holds.
‘We are old people, we do not have a place to go. Where will I go?’ asked Vira Miedientseva, one of the elderly residents grappling with the aftermath of an attack on Thursday in Lysychansk, which lies just across the river from Severodonetsk, a key focus of battles in recent weeks that Russians have nearly captured.
After a series of setbacks early in the war, including the failure to seize Ukraine’s capital, Russian forces have switched their focus to the Donbas, pressing a grinding offensive.
In recent weeks, they have moved in on Severodonetsk and surrounding villages – the last pocket of the Luhansk region not yet claimed by Russia or its allies.
‘The Russians are pouring fire on the city,’ said Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai. ‘It’s getting harder and harder for us to fight in Severodonetsk, because the Russians outnumber us in artillery and manpower, and it’s very difficult for us to resist this barrage of fire.’
The persistent shelling made it impossible for 568 people, including 38 children, who were refuge at the city’s Azot chemical plant to flee, he said.
Russian forces have damaged all three bridges leading out of the city, although Mr Haidai claims they have not been completely destroyed.
Under certain conditions, the Moscow envoy for Russia-backed separatists who control much of the terrain near Severodonetsk indicated an evacuation from the Azot factory may take place.
Rodion Miroshnik of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic stated on social media on Friday that Russian soldiers and separatists are “ready to consider options for opening a humanitarian corridor for the exit of civilians, but subject to strict adherence to the ceasefire.”
Mr Miroshnik accused Kyiv’s troops of attempting to sabotage the evacuation of residents from Azot earlier this week, an accusation disputed by Ukrainian officials.
Kyiv has also lobbied for more political assistance, including a faster path to European Union membership.
Four European Union leaders pledged to support Kyiv’s application for future membership in the group during a visit to Ukraine on Thursday. On Friday, the European Commission will gather to deliver its official recommendation.
The war has raised pressure on EU nations to move faster on Ukraine’s candidate status, and the EU’s 27-nation union is one step closer to doing so with Thursday’s pledge to support Ukraine’s and Moldova’s candidacy status.
However, the process is likely to take years, and EU nations are split on how fast and fully to welcome newcomers.