Putin ‘scrambles’ forces to save territory as Kremlin’s ‘situation gets worse’

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Vladimir Putin has been forced to scramble forces to Crimea in preparation for Ukraine’s renewed efforts to take the area back.

Tamila Tasheva, the Volodymyr Zelensky-appointed envoy in charge of the peninsula, claimed Kyiv has “noticed” signs of Russian nerves as her country continues to push forward with its counter-offensive.

Crimea was annexed to Russia in 2014 and President Putin has repeatedly remarked on the importance of the area, dismissing reports of Ukrainian-led attacks against his troops since the start of the invasion.

But Tasheva insisted the Russian leader should be concerned as Ukraine prepares to reclaim Crimea, highlighting how Russia appears to be expecting the situation to “get worse” as it moves troops inland.

Tasheva said: “Ukraine is actively preparing to bring Crimea and other occupied territories back, and the Russians see that.

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“Since at least August, there have been strikes or sabotage on Russia’s military and transport infrastructure, including the railway hub, or the Russian-held port, or the explosion on the Crimean bridge.

“These developments have forced them to redeploy their troops, vehicles and machinery to further inland and away from the frontlines.

“That tells us that they are expecting the situation to get worse, and they have to explain this to the local population too.”

At the start of the invasion in February last year, Russia cited its aviation superiority to dismiss Ukraine’s pledge to retake Crimea.

But with Russian troops increasingly showing signs of unpreparedness and fatigue, Kyiv reiterated its strategy includes the liberation of the peninsula.

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Speaking to Newsweek, Tasheva added: “Their narrative has transformed from claims that ‘we have powerful air defenses and will protect Crimea,’ to scrambling to pacify the concerned locals that the explosions and shelling are either military drills, or accidents, and otherwise are ‘nothing to worry about.'”

Ukrainian forces would still need to get through over 100 miles of heavily defended territory to liberate Crimea.

And satellite images have shown that while Russian troops have moved inland, they started preparing for an assault on the peninsula.

Tasheva said the high level of traffic recorded on the Kerch bridge connecting Crimea to mainland Russia suggests locals are aware an attack is coming and are now fleeing to avoid coming under fire.

While Ukraine has denied any involvement in recent strikes on the peninsula, she said the sense of uncertainty has started to erode the sense of safety that led thousands of Russians to flock to the area for a vacation at the start of summer.

She added: “Of course, Crimea remains an important military base for the Russians, they usually have about 35-37,000 officers and soldiers deployed there.”

Russia also appeared to shoot itself in the foot after allegedly destroying the Nova Kakhovka Dam from which the North Crimean Canal draws water for the whole peninsula in May.

Russian authorities in Crimea have now been forced to raise a draught warning as the reservoirs have only three to five months of supplies left.

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