Crimea and Battle of Black Sea will become “center of gravity” of war in Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tells The Economist about Ukraine's goals for 2024, saying that Crimea and the related battle in the Black Sea will be the "center of gravity" of the war
In an interview with the Economist, President Zelenskyy remains guarded about the country's goals for 2024, citing leaks before the summer counter-offensive that aided Russia in preparing its defenses. However, he emphasizes that Crimea and the connected battle in the Black Sea will be the war's focal point. The isolation of illegally annexed Crimea and the degradation of Russia's military capabilities there are crucial. “It is the way for us to reduce the number of attacks from that region,” Zelenskyy says.
Zelenskyy sees a successful operation in Crimea as an “example” to the world, with potential significant effects inside Russia. The loss of a centerpiece of Kremlin propaganda would highlight the human cost of Putin's ambition. Ukraine has achieved surprising victories in the strategically important peninsula, reportedly destroying a notable portion of the Black Sea fleet. Losing naval bases held by Russia for 240 years would be a considerable embarrassment for Putin.
However, Zelenskyy underscores that the speed of success depends on military assistance from Western partners. He specifically requests the Taurus, a German-made stealth cruise missile capable of penetrating deep into targets. This missile could potentially be used to destroy the Crimean Bridge, isolating Crimea from Russia. Zelenskyy emphasizes that Russia needs to understand the military significance of this bridge, hinting at potential obstacles from Western powers, including Germany.
Regarding goals in the east and south, Zelenskyy is more reserved. While Ukraine's strategic ambition remains to restore the country to its original borders, he refrains from setting timelines and promises for how much territory can be "de-occupied" in the coming year. The immediate focus in the land war is to defend critical cities such as Kharkiv, Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, and Mykolaiv, along with protecting the country's critical infrastructure.