Ukraine Making Crimea 'Untenable' for Russian Forces—Retired Lt. General

Reported Ukrainian strikes on a railway bridge near a city considered a gateway to Crimea signal a push by Kyiv to make the peninsula Moscow seized "untenable," a former U.S. general has said.

The Twitter account NOELreports, which provides updates on the war in Ukraine, tweeted how Kyiv's forces had destroyed a bridge near Melitopol on Sunday which was one of the main supply routes for Russian forces.

The bridge was reportedly attacked by U.S.-supplied HIMARS when a convoy of Russian vehicles had passed through.

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former commander general of U.S. Army Europe shared the tweet, adding in the message that the move was "part of disrupting the 'land bridge' and isolating Crimea, which Russia seized in 2014.

 Kerch Bridge
A view taken on October 14, 2022 shows the Kerch Bridge that links Crimea to Russia, near Kerch, which was hit by a blast on October 8, 2022. Former U.S. general Ben Hodges said on January 30, 2023 that Crimea should be made "untenable for Russian forces." Getty Images

"This is a step towards the employment of long-range precision fires which will make Crimea untenable for Russian forces," he added.

Newsweek has contacted Hodges and the Ukrainian defense ministry for comment.

Moscow's forces occupy parts of southern Ukraine including Melitopol and the city of Mariupol, which link Russia to its own border via the peninsula and is a key supply route.

This month, the head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, said that the chances of Ukraine kicking Russia out of Crimea soon were not high.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has pledged to expel Russian forces out of all occupied territory in his country, including Crimea, as Kyiv says it can never be free from the threat of Russian aggression if the peninsula remains in the Kremlin's hands.

But Hodges is among military experts who believe that reclaiming Crimea is required for Ukraine's long-term survival. He told Britain's Channel 4 News last Wednesday that Crimea is the "decisive terrain" and that it should be isolated "with long range precision weapons."

In his view, these would include F-16 jets and ATACMs (Army Tactical Missile Systems) and armed drones, which can "reach beyond the current HIMARS being used that could isolate Crimea" and "make Crimea untenable."

The fate of Crimea as a deciding factor in the war in Ukraine continues to be debated amid speculation over whether it would be a red line for Moscow which Vladimir Putin was prepared to use nuclear capabilities to defend.

There are also the logistical issues a move on Crimea would require.

Retired Australian Major General Mick Ryan wrote in a sub stack article on Monday that there are only two narrow land approaches to the peninsula which "hardly assists the attacker" and are "likely to be heavily fortified by the Russians."

He also said Ukraine would also need to recapture all its southern territory. Liberating Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces would provide "the only two ground axes that might be used to advance into Crimea," he wrote.