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Russian troops move beyond Crimea

Russian soldier atop an IFV
Russian soldier atop an IFV
European Pressphoto Agency

Russian troops backed up by Mi-28 Havoc helicopter gunships and armored vehicles occupied the Ukrainian village of Strilkove on March 15 just beyond northeast Crimea’s border with mainland Ukraine.

Strilkove is situated on the northern end of Arabat Spit, an isthmus six miles in length which is one of only three road connections to mainland Ukraine. The village also contains a natural gas relay station which was also occupied by Russian troops.

No resistance was offered against the Russians and no casualties or gunfire has been reported. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry denounced the move and reiterated that Ukraine reserves the right to use all means to defend Ukraine.

From a tactical standpoint, it would be advantageous for Russians to control the three road connections as close to mainland Ukraine as possible and even better if they can attain a foothold just inside the mainland at each point before Ukrainian forces arrive.

Not doing so would enable Ukrainian troops to easily bottleneck the Russians at each point and force a fire fight to break through where the Russians would not have the advantage of maneuvering around Ukrainian troop’s flanks. In such a case, air strikes by fixed wing tactical aircraft and/or helicopter gunships would then have to be called in.

The three road connections to Ukraine from Crimea are spaced apart and separated by water and marshland. The quicker Russian troops can get across them, the quicker they can establish three footholds on the Ukrainian side and from there, link up with the three footholds to establish a larger bridgehead and begin pouring in troops and tanks.

Tensions are rising elsewhere in eastern Ukraine with a gun battle breaking out in the city of Kharkiv leaving two policemen dead and several pro-Moscow protestors wounded. Pro-Russia demonstrators have seized government buildings and clashed with Ukraine supporters.

One person died and 17 were wounded in clashes in the city of Donetsk on Thursday. The Ukrainian Mayor of Kharkiv is essentially holed up in his residence under threat of pro-Russia demonstrators.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov continues to state that Russia has no plans to invade Ukraine. However, the ‘ground truth’ of 200,000 Russian troops mustering in plain sight of Ukrainian border posts suggests that isn’t entirely true.

A look back at events and ‘community organizing’ tactics employed by Nazis in Austria, Rhineland, Saarland, Sudetenland and the Polish city of Danzig, now known as Gdansk starting from 1933 reveals a striking similarity to the tactics now being employed in Ukraine by Moscow.

Then as now, people in those lands rabble roused and engaged in protests organized and designed by the Nazis to spark reactions from fellow citizens in those lands who were not in favor of absorption by Germany.

Crimea in particular seems to be striking replay of the saga surrounding the plebiscite deciding if Saarland would be repatriated to Germany, or be annexed by France. In the end, the vote went overwhelming in favor of repatriation to Germany.

Eastern Ukraine might best be compared to the former Sudetenland. It was a region which had a similar mix of ethnic Germans vis-à-vis Czechs.

Crimea’s ‘plebiscite’ to decide on its future is to be held March 16. There is very little doubt what the outcome will be. If forays by Russian troops are now reconnoitering out of Crimea closer to Ukraine, there is also little doubt what’s coming next for eastern Ukraine.

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