Elite soldiers in the Ukrainian army recently staged a series of drills that reportedly rehearsed for a potential invasion of the Crimean Peninsula.
Following reports in the Ukrainian media, Russia’s RIA Novosti agency described the proposed tactical playbook for the mock mission. First, “several groups of special forces cross the border unnoticed and go deeper into the territory of the peninsula” where they would “destroy the runways of airfields, destroy communication centers, headquarters and weapons depots, and eliminate commanders.”
This covert operation would then be followed by a full-scale air and land invasion by the country’s armed forces.
Lieutenant General Serhiy Naev of the Ukrainian armed forces said one aim of the exercise was to rehearse preventive measures to protect key strategic facilities from possible terrorist threats.
However, past Ukrainian attempts to establish intelligence networks in Crimea have encountered problems. In January, a local resident was arrested in the region on suspicion of stockpiling explosives, supposedly on the orders of Kiev’s intelligence. In April, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) announced it had exposed a Ukrainian spies’ network planning terrorist acts and stealing secret data.
And back in 2016, the FSB announced it prevented a Ukrainian-planned terrorist attack, while one of its agents and a soldier were killed in a firefight on the border. The then-Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko denied Kiev’s involvement.
Ukraine also accuses Russian special forces of operating reconnaissance and sabotage missions in its territory. Moscow strongly denies the claims, but they have been cited by Kiev as a pretext for increased military presence in the region.
Still, Crimea is a heavily defended region. General Naev told Ukrainian media earlier this year that hundreds of Russia’s military equipment and over 30,000 servicemen are currently stationed there.