The Battle Over Crimea Could Trigger Putin’s Deadliest Rampage in Ukraine Yet

The Kremlin’s chief executioner in Crimea has not been shy about killing some 70,000 of his neighbors.

“We want a ruthless, relentless struggle against the snakes hiding in secret,” Rosalia Zemlyachka told the Sebastopol newspaper. Time. “We must destroy them, sweep them with an iron broom, a sea of ​​blood, everywhere.”

Witnessing Zemlyachka’s execution, Russian opposition leader Sergei Melgunov said the lights of Crimea’s largest city were “decorated with corpses blowing in the wind.” At the seaside resort of Feodosia, Melgunov and other officials said they saw the Zemlyachka captain treat the city’s wells as burial pits. When the shafts were blocked by tortured soldiers and civilians, Melgunov added, he tied his victims to wooden stakes, burning them alive in the ovens or drowning them in boats in the Black Sea.

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“It’s a shame to waste cartridges on them,” Zemlyachka said.

Of course, Western leaders now grappling with the question of whether to encourage and finance Ukraine’s bid to seize Crimea may not be familiar with Kyiv’s secret police known locally as the Demon.

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But back in Moscow—a century after Zemlyachka, at the end of the Russian Civil War presided over a Bolshevik massacre of a population nearly three times the size of Key West—the Demon is still the favorite of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a star at KGB headquarters. , and the poster ghoul of what Russia is capable of doing if Ukraine moves to Crimea.

“Ukraine will be liquidated,” are the following words that Putin celebrated during the first shill and the accusation of war Vladimir Solovyov uses almost every night on television to revive the spirit of Zemlyachka.

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A veteran Kremlin expert who spent years in Moscow and still works in Western intelligence agencies says: “The Russian way of thinking about the military is always destructive. “The most amazing thing since the fall of Kherson is that we have gone never previously heard Russian politicians and propagandists push the terrorist campaign to a level reminiscent of the Bolshevik Revolution. They are off the charts.”

People arrive from Kherson awaiting transfer to central Russia at Dzhankoi railway station in Crimea on October 21, 2022.

Stringer/AFP via Getty Images

None of this surprises 2022 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oleksandra Matviichuk.

“The Russian people can tolerate their successful criminals,” Matviichuk told The Daily Beast at a recent dinner in Paris. “The Russian people cannot tolerate their lost heroes.”

Matviichuk, director of the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties, says his organization has so far documented more than 21,000 cases of Russian war crimes in Ukraine. The abuses in Bucha, Izium, and Kherson are so bad that he and other human rights lawyers are now urging UN member states to “develop a new definition of war crimes and a way to prosecute them,” he said.

Olena Tregub is dedicated to making sure Putin’s criminals go missing. She is also a woman who knows her guns and ammo. Tregub is a vocal member of the anti-corruption committee of the Ukrainian government, and his job is to ensure that every penny of foreign aid and weapons support the war effort aimed at eliminating his country’s flag in Crimea.

“We travel a lot,” Tregub said. “We are retaking Crimea. This is the only way to punish Russia for Putin’s crimes in Ukraine.”

Glorious visions of undoing centuries of Russian imperialism have fueled Ukraine’s vision. “The fortresses of Syvash are so strong that the Red High Command has neither the men nor the machines to breach them,” Time assured its students in 1920. “All the Soviet armed forces cannot threaten Crimea.”

Indeed, General Peter Wrangel, the commander of the German-Baltic army in charge of the defense of the Crimea, was so confident of victory that he created a new medal of honor called the Order of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, the award was later given to Mother Theresa, Pope John -Paul II, and Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian woman sent into space.

Back on Earth, French Lieutenant General and former NATO chief Michel Yakovleff says, “I’m not sure Ukraine should return Crimea.” In an interview with The Daily Beast under the crystal bells and cherubs lining the French Senate, the veteran of Operation Desert Storm and the NATO campaigns in Bosnia and Kosovo spent the past nine months grappling with Ukrainian politics and military tactics.

The Antonovski Bridge, which was allegedly demolished to prevent Ukrainian forces from crossing the Dnieper River as Russian forces retreated to their left side of the river, is seen after the Russian withdrawal from Kherson, Ukraine on November 14, 2022. The only transport route from Kherson to Crimea was on the Antonovski Bridge.

Metin Aktas / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Yakovleff warns: “We are not sure how many Crimeans would like to return to Ukraine. “An internationally recognized referendum could be diplomatic to resettle thousands of Russians who were brought in voluntarily after the annexation of Russia in 2014. There will be internal problems. The return to Crimea could be a mixed blessing.”

The reaction of Andriy Yermak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, further complicates Kyiv’s position on which side controls Crimea. Does anyone think the Kremlin really wants peace? he he wrote on Twitter. “It demands obedience.”

But as this problem continues in the winter, the only thing that is certain is the Moscow peninsula pizhony or “stylish” refers to the Russian Riviera, the eye of the storm that is blowing between Ukraine and its Western allies.

“We don’t give policy,” said a Western intelligence official. “We know how Russia works, its military capabilities and its capabilities. Most importantly, the Russians don’t care about losses, and still have plenty of air power and other dirty tricks to threaten Ukraine beyond bombs and missiles. Many people find it difficult to accept those truths.”

The irony of this situation is palpable. He added: “Russia has been mining heavily in eastern Ukraine for eight years. “So it would really be easier to take Crimea by force than Donbas.”

Putin has been hit by what has become the most powerful military force in Europe.

On the other hand, allowing Crimea to remain Russian and home to the Black Sea fleet could be an appeasement that eases Putin into making peace while maintaining his power. An intelligence analyst suggests that such peace will not hold.

“Strategically, tear the Russians apart, because you don’t want to give them time to rebuild and come back, they will say,” he said. The more you can force Russia to rebuild its military, the better it is for Europe and the democratic world.

On the other side of the blood-stained side, can Ukraine absorb more of the damage caused by Russia? Back in 1933, at the height of Stalin’s enforced two-year famine, the Holodomor, Ukrainians were dying at an average rate of 28,000 per day, for a total death toll of nearly 4 million. Yakovleff insists that history confirms Ukraine’s victory this time.

Yakovleff says: “Putin is being beaten by the most powerful army in Europe.” “If Putin survives, he will be the only Russian leader to survive a defeat of this magnitude. His future is sealed.”

On the other hand, Hanna Shelest, director of the security and military analysis group Prism in Kyiv, has good reason to worry. He says: “I trained NATO officers at the war college. “The only map of Ukraine was in my office. None of my students knew the distance between Crimea and the nearest NATO country. It’s the same thing eight years after Putin invaded Crimea,” Shelest adds. “NATO has no strategic vision for Crimea.”


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