Moscow’s next provocation against Ukraine likely to involve use of air power, Starykov says

The word "Crimea" written on Putin's upper lip to draw a parallel between his occupation of Crimea and Hitler's anschluss of Austria.

The word "Crimea" written on Putin's upper lip to draw a parallel between his occupation of Crimea and Hitler's anschluss of Austria. 

Russian Aggression, War in the Donbas

Pointing to a buildup in Russian forces near the border, the Ukrainian military says that the Russian threat to Ukraine is the highest it has been since 2014 when Moscow invaded, seized and annexed Crimea and launched the war in the Donbas.

Some have dismissed this as an echo of concern over Moscow’s actions in the Kerch Straits, but other analysts are taking it seriously and asking where Moscow might strike next. One of the latter is Ukrainian military commentator Oleh Starykov.

He argues that Russia is unlikely to launch a ground attack because Ukrainian forces have the advantage and that it is even more unlikely to try another provocation at sea given the overwhelmingly negative reaction of the Western powers to the Kerch incident. Instead, he suggests, Moscow is likely to use airpower to try to undermine Ukrainian self-confidence.

Moscow’s best option and the one it is likely to continue to use is low intensity conflict, Starykov continues. “I do not see a basis for Russia to begin a broad attack on Ukraine. Land operations from their side are also improbable. But our military must remain at the ready. I personally support the beginning of active military actions.”

“If the Russian Federation renews the active phase of military actions in the Donbas,” he says, “Ukraine will win. Plus in this case, the international community will not be able to keep quiet. War now doesn’t work to Russia’s advantage … I think the next provocation of Russia will be in the air. There have already been land and sea variants.”

Starykov does not specify what such a provocation from the air might look like, but the obvious possibility is that the Moscow forces in the Donbas might be given Russian combat planes with markers removed and bomb or strafe Ukrainian units or even military bases. That would be a high risk action, but Putin, as many have observed, may now be going for broke.

Further Reading:

Edited by: A. N.

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