Ukraine defence chief says troops will be in Crimea by end of year after Russian retreat

Kyiv’s defence chief reveals Ukraine ‘can step in Crimea

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Ukraine could “move into Crimea by the end of December”, the nation’s deputy defence minister has claimed, as its forces push past the port city of Kherson. Crimea, a small piece of land in between the southeast of Russia and the south of Ukraine, was annexed by Russia in 2014 as Vladimir Putin looked to shore up access to the only warm water port at his disposal at Sevastopol. Minister Volodymyr Havrylov, who is also a retired army general, said he believes Ukraine will retake the land after eight years of Russian occupation following a “Black Swan” event, described as an unexpected incident, such as the disappearance of Putin.

Mr Havrylov said: “There is a phenomenon called Black Swan. So, an unexpected event coming to calculations nobody expected to come.

“So, I think Russia can face a Black Swan inside Russia and it can contribute to our success in Crimea.

“There is also a military option with some kind of combination of military resources and something else, we can move into Crimea by the end of December. It is possible.”

Asked what kind of Black Swan event could happen within Russia over the next few months, Mr Havrylov said: “Putin disappeared, for example, due to some political or physical reason.

Deputy defence minister Volodymyr Havrylov said Ukraine could take Crimea in December (Image: SKY NEWS )

Havrylov suggested Putin could “disappear” within Russia (Image: GETTY )

“Or somebody from his inner circle, something happens. Or maybe a combination with a very disillusioned society, in terms of their losses.”

Crimea has been an instrumental territory through which Russia has advanced their soldiers and military supplies into Ukraine since their invasion in 2014.

It also holds significant geopolitical value to Putin as it contains the warm water port of Sevastopol; without it, Russia is forced to export from ports in Siberia, where the waters freeze over for several months, rendering them unusable.

The loss of Crimea would, in material terms, represent a significant loss of trade to Russia and dampen their claims to superpower status.

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Crimea is instrumental territory through which Russia has advanced their soldiers into Ukraine (Image: EXPRESS)

Since February 24, Russian soldiers have been travelling through Crimea into Kherson, and from there onto the front lines.

But last week, Ukraine retook Kherson, just 60 miles up from the northernmost tip of Crimea, forcing Russians to retreat south.

Ukrainian special forces have already crossed the Dnipro river into the territory between Kherson and Crimea as their Armed Forces prepare to advance behind them.

But Russia has fortified the area with miles of trenches and is currently sending scores of military equipment, including tanks and missile launchers.

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Ukrainian soldiers celebrate retaking Kherson after months of fighting in the south (Image: GETTY )

This next phase of the war could be the bloodiest yet given the significance of Crimea; the fact that the battle will take place in winter, where temperatures in Ukraine can reach minus 20, serves to make that prospect more concerning.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has made no secret of his nation’s desire to reclaim the annexed region of Crimea.

At an event in Singapore on Thursday, Mr Zelensky, via video link from Kyiv, called for the “liberation of our whole territory”.

While admitting that an offensive against the Russian forces south of the Dnipro River would be “difficult”, he said Crimea “is not just a state within a state, it’s part of our country and part of our sovereignty.

“Therefore, indeed the de-occupation of Crimea and Donbas will bring an end to the war. A simple ceasefire won’t do the trick. Unless we liberate our whole territory, we will not bring peace.”

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