Russia Rapidly Building Up Crimea's Defenses, Intelligence Report Reveals

Ukrainian military officials warned on the one-year anniversary of the war that Russia is swiftly working to bolster its defense of the Crimean Peninsula.

"In Chaplynka [Kherson region], the occupiers imposed a round-the-clock curfew from February 23 to February 25, 2023," said an intelligence update posted on Facebook by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine at 6 p.m. local time Friday. "The reason may be the transfer of military equipment from the temporarily occupied part of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to reinforce the defense line."

Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, is viewed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and top military brass as a pivotal region that might ultimately define the war because of Ukraine's desire to fully reoccupy the territory it views as its own.

But in a new exclusive poll for Newsweek by Redfield and Wilton Strategies, just 28 percent of respondents said that Kyiv should strive to recover all territory lost since February 2014 prior to a peace settlement, including Crimea and the Donbas regions of eastern Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk.

Crimea Ukraine Russia War Conflict Anniversary Putin
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appears on screen as he speaks via a video link at the opening session of the International Crimea Platform Parliamentary Summit, organized by Ukraine and Croatia, in Zagreb, on October 25, 2022. Zelensky has remained steadfast in its desire to reclaim the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, while Russians may be bolstering their defenses there. DAMIR SENCAR/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

However, 46 percent of those polled said Ukraine should look to recover all territory lost since February 2022 before seeking a peace agreement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top Kremlin officials have blamed Ukrainian and U.S. officials, the latter of whom the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., claimed are "fueling the ambitions of the Kyiv regime to attack our country" by encouraging aggression in Crimea.

Russians are reportedly conducting door-to-door rounds of residents' homes in the town of Nova Kakhovka, also part of the Kherson region. Ukraine claimed that Russians are checking homeowners' registration and documents to confirm ownership.

"Whenever these are not found the residents are evicted within a week, with the Russian occupation troops moving in and quartered instead," the General Staff wrote.

On Thursday, Ukraine hacked two Russian radio stations on the peninsula. A recorded message by Major General Kyrylo Budanov, chief of the defense intelligence of Ukraine, was played.

"Ukraine is taking back all of its occupied territories," Budanov said. "The Donbas and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea will be coming home forever."

In January, Ukrainian interlocutors told an eight-member American delegation part of the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC) that Crimea is a central objective of the nation's wartime strategy.

It is due not to the optics themselves but also is based on Kyiv's perspective of the treatment of Crimea's Ukrainian population under Russian control—notably members of the Indigenous population of Crimean Tatars who have been continally oppressed.

Tatars in exile was a process that accelerated once Crimea was annexed in 2014 and continues to occur. The AFPC reported that hundreds of Tatar-owned homes were raided by Russians during their visit between January 20 and 29.

Newsweek reached out to the Ukrainian and Russian defense ministries for comment.