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ISW: Russia stations military targets near civilian areas in Crimea to deter Ukrainian strikes

The Institute for the Study of War reports that Russian authorities are encouraging tourism in occupied Crimea while simultaneously using the peninsula as a military staging area.
Belbek
Illustrative photo. Smoke in the direction of the Belbek airfield near occupied Sevastopol. Source: Telegram/Krymskiy Veter
ISW: Russia stations military targets near civilian areas in Crimea to deter Ukrainian strikes

The US-based Institute for the Study of War reported on 24 June that Russian forces have been positioning military equipment in civilian areas of occupied Crimea since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

According to the ISW, this strategy appears to be an attempt to discourage Ukrainian strikes on these targets.

The report cites widespread criticism from Russian military bloggers directed at the Russian Ministry of Defense and occupation authorities in Crimea. These critics argue that officials failed to adequately protect Russian civilians and prevent a recent strike. The ISW notes, “Russian sources criticized Russian authorities for not using air raid sirens to alert civilians to seek shelter.”

Some military bloggers expressed frustration at the lack of reinforced shelters near beach areas in Crimea, contrasting this with Russia’s efforts to build shelters in Belgorod Oblast near the Ukrainian border.

The ISW reports that these bloggers “criticized Russian authorities for failing to detect and destroy all the missiles before they approached Sevastopol and for failing to build reinforced shelters within walking distance of the beach.”

The ISW highlights what it sees as a contradiction in Russian policy: “Russian authorities have irresponsibly encouraged Russian tourism to occupy Crimea during wartime while the Russian military continues to leverage the occupied peninsula as a rear staging area.”

The report suggests that this strategy of positioning military targets near civilian areas may be deliberate, saying, “The Russian military likely purposefully stations legitimate military targets near civilian areas in Crimea to deter Ukrainian strikes.”

The ISW draws parallels to similar tactics observed elsewhere, noting, “Russian forces have been recorded leveraging the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and schools in occupied mainland Ukraine to shield Russian military equipment.”

The ISW points out that these actions may violate Russia’s own regulations on International Humanitarian Law, which state that “the military command shall avoid deploying military objectives in densely populated areas or their vicinity.”

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