Ukraine should target the bridge connecting Crimea to the Russian mainland via the Kerch Strait as soon as it gets the required weapons from the West, Major General Dmitry Marchenko said on Wednesday in an interview with US state-run media.
“The Kerch Bridge is absolutely our number one target,” Marchenko told Crimea Realities (Krym.Realii), speaking of the longest such construction in Europe, opened in 2018. The website is a project of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, part of the government-controlled US Agency for Global Media.
“As the main way of sending in reserves, we just have to cut it off. As soon as that road is cut off, they will start to panic. And believe me, those who flew Russian flags in Simferopol will quickly get Ukrainian flags and start flying them instead,” he said.
Marchenko’s comments were part of an interview posted on Wednesday, in which he heralded a Ukrainian “counter-offensive”that he said would see Kiev victorious by the end of summer – provided enough weapons and ammunition arrive from the US and its NATO allies.
Earlier in the day, US President Joe Biden announced $1 billion worth of military assistance, including anti-ship missiles, long-range rockets and more artillery. While Washington is sending only four HIMARS rocket launchers – which have not reached Ukraine yet – other NATO allies have pledged compatible equipment. The Pentagon’s policy chief on Tuesday revealed that the US will provide guided missiles with a range of 70 kilometers.
Ukraine gave Washington “assurances that they will not use these systems against targets on Russian territory,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this month. However, the US refuses to recognize Crimea as Russian territory, calling the peninsula that in March 2014 overwhelmingly voted to rejoin Russia “illegally annexed.”
It was unclear which weapons Marchenko was hoping to use against the bridge, which the government in Kiev has threatenedto attack before. While the bridge was indeed the only way to reach Crimea from the Russian mainland for several years, currently the entire Black Sea coast from Kherson to Mariupol is under control of Russian and allied forces of the Donbass republics.
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.