Two drone attacks on Russian munitions depots in Crimea have been carried out in just two days. Both attacks have common features and fit into a single picture with the strikes on the Crimean and Chonhar bridges.
"These are not old warehouses created after the occupation of 2014. They are intended for the current actions of the Russian army," Defense Express editor-in-chief Oleh Katkov explains to LIGA.net. "Most likely, these are warehouses that the Russians pulled back when [Ukraine] began to destroy them with HIMARS at ranges of up to 80 km.
LIGA.net analyzed the tactics of the strikes on Crimea and what to expect next.
On July 22, the village of Oktyabrske in Krasnohvardiyskyi district was attacked. According to the Strategic Communications Directorate of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, an ammunition dump and an oil depot were hit. The video from local residents shows the characteristic sound of shells detonating and a huge black column of smoke from burning fuels and lubricants.
The ammunition depot was located at an abandoned air base. The scale of the detonation can be seen on satellite images of the Deepstate OSINT project.
On July 24, the area near the village of Vesele, Dzhankoy district, came under attack: a video of the locals shows the detonation of shells. There is also an abandoned air base near the village, which is likely to have been the site of the depot.
Judging by the video of the detonation and the evacuation announced by the occupiers within a 5 km zone, both warehouses were large in size, Defense Express editor-in-chief Oleh Katkov tells LIGA.net. The Russians probably used them to supply ammunition to groupings in southern Ukraine.
"Most likely, these are the depots that the Russians pulled back when they began to destroy them at ranges up to 80 km using HIMARS," the military expert suggests.
Both warehouses were located on abandoned airfields near the Simferopol-Dzhankoy railroad line, the backbone of Russian military logistics.
In the case of Oktyabrske, there was also an oil depot close to the railroad.
This location is not surprising, Katkov says. Large ammunition depots are naturally located next to the railroad.
"The Dzhankoy-Simferopol railroad splits into Yevpatoriya and Sevastopol," he explains, "It is the only way that connects Crimea by rail. Dzhankoy is a major hub station."
As a result of both attacks, the occupiers were forced to suspend railroad traffic for a while. The destruction of a large ammunition depot is likely to block vehicular traffic as well, Katkov adds.
However, such strikes should not be considered a double attack on warehouses and logistics at once, explains Mykhailo Liuksikov, editor of news outlet Militarnyi, to LIGA.net: "The strike was not on the railroad, but on the warehouses... Even the occupation administrations themselves do not report the destruction of the railroad."
The Russians have more than just one major warehouse, adds Liuksikov. In addition, they have warehouses of different levels – tactical and operational.
The destroyed facilities should be seen as part of a network where ammunition travels from large depots to smaller ones, and then to the frontline.
The continuation of the strikes has already been announced by the Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov, one of the managers of the Army of Drones project.
At the same time, the Russians have significant stockpiles of Soviet shells, Katkov notes. And they can try to restore the destroyed depots. It is unlikely that they will be able to do this instantly because after a detonation of this magnitude, they will first have to clear the area of mines.
The strikes in Oktyabrske and Vesele are not the only ones. On July 19, there were hits to the Starokrymskyi training ground near Feodosia. The shells detonated for several days, and satellite images showed warehouses burned to the ground.
There were two opinions among Western analysts about the recent strikes on Crimea: that they were preparing a battlefield on the peninsula or attempts to bleed the Russian southern grouping.
Experts interviewed by LIGA.net believe that it is both.
"The southern axis is inextricably linked to Crimea. Advancement in the south is a stepping stone to the liberation of Crimea," Katkov explains.
The attacks on the Crimean and Chonhar bridges fall into the same systematic pattern, the expert says. It is impossible to hit only warehouses or oil depots.
"These are different means of influence," Katkov believes. "Strikes on the depots mean a reduction in the amount of ammunition. The Crimean Bridge is a burden on logistics. It is always about a set of actions."
Russians are already realizing that Crimea is not a rear area, but a dangerous territory, said Andriy Yusov, a representative of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine, during the telethon program..
And now, apparently, the strategy announced a year ago by the head of the Armed Forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, is being implemented, Katkov suggests. That the war should be moved deeper into the occupied and purely Russian territories.
"This also applies to strikes on both Moscow and Rublevka," the expert concludes, "For now, the war is still somewhere far away for the occupiers. As soon as the war is on their doorstep, the situation may change."