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Ukraine

Kiev In Reverse: On The Ground In Crimea, Ukraine's Newest Battlefield

In the capital of Ukraine's Crimea region, where ethnic Russians and otherwise pro-Russian citizens hold sway, dissenters are holding a countermovement to the pro-EU Maiden protests.

Dueling pro and anti-Russian rallies in Simferopol
Dueling pro and anti-Russian rallies in Simferopol
Ilya Barabanov

SIMFEROPOL — On the road from Simferopol, the capital of Ukraine’s Crimea region, to Sevastopol, a single police officer was patroling, accompanied by about 10 volunteers from local self-defense forces.

“We’re waiting for the fascists to come here from Kiev and impose themselves,” one of them says, referring to the pro-EU protesters who toppled the government in Kiev. “We are ready to defend our police officers.”

“We are also prepared to not allow officials that have been appointed by the illegitimate government in Kiev,” another interrupts.

Here in the heart of Crimea, which Russia ceded to Ukraine in 1954, many residents are ethnic Russians. Many others identify much more closely with their Russian neighbor than with the pro-EU protesters who kept a three-month vigil on Kiev’s Independence Square and their democratic aspirations, which proved victorious last week when President Viktor Yanukovych’s oligarchy came to an abrupt end.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The "Corrosion" Strategy: How Ukraine Targets Russian Networks And Morale

Russia continues to shrink its ambitions in Donbas, as Ukraine doubles down on its strategy of guerilla attacks, interrupting supply and communication contacts and ultimately undermines the morale of the enemy.

Ukrainian soldiers sitting atop a tank in Donbas on May 22

Clemens Wergin

For years to come, military experts will be studying how Ukraine managed to push back a far stronger enemy and grind Russia’s major offensive in the east of the country to a halt.

Some military strategists are already trying to find a term to sum up the Ukrainians’ success. Australian military expert and retired army major general Mick Ryan credited Kyiv's stunning showing to "the adoption of a simple military strategy: corrosion. The Ukrainian approach has embraced the corrosion of the Russian physical, moral, and intellectual capacity to fight and win in Ukraine.”

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Ryan argues that while the Ukrainians have used the firepower they possess to halt the Russian advance, while aggressively targeting their enemy’s greatest shortcoming. “They have attacked the weakest physical support systems of an army in the field – communications networks, logistic supply routes, rear areas, artillery and senior commanders in their command posts,” Ryan wrote.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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