The Daily Telegraph

Counter-attack ‘will drive wedge between Crimea and Russia’

- By Nataliya Vasilyeva

A TOP Ukrainian intelligen­ce official says Kyiv’s upcoming counter-offensive will cut off the Crimean peninsula from mainland Russia in an operation to retake some of the occupied south.

A bridge over the Kerch Strait was the only link between Russian-occupied Crimea and mainland Russia before the Kremlin launched the invasion last year, which created a land bridge to the peninsula by taking the coastline, including cities such as Mariupol.

Vadym Skibitsky, deputy military intelligen­ce chief, said the spring counter-offensive would “drive a wedge” between Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, and mainland Russia.

“Our counter-offensive is to liberate all occupied territorie­s of Ukraine – including Crimea. We won’t stop until we have our country back in the 1991 borders,” he told Berliner Morgenpost.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, boasted that his territoria­l gains in southern Ukraine allowed Moscow to have full control of the Sea of Azov.

Recapturin­g cities such as Melitopol or Mariupol and thus cutting Crimea off from Russian-occupied areas in Donetsk would make it difficult to supply and reinforce the peninsula.

The Kerch Strait bridge came under several Ukrainian attacks last year.

The United States is transferri­ng an addi- tional $1 billion (£830 million) to Ukraine. Following President Joe Biden’s visit last week, Janet Yellen, the US Treasury Secretary, met with President Volodymyr Zelensky yesterday.

This will be the first tranche of about $10billion the US will provide in the coming months, she said in Kyiv.

“Our economic support is helping keep the Ukrainian government and critical service providers operationa­l under extraordin­ary circumstan­ces,” including by paying civil servants, firefighte­rs and teachers, she said. The US, Ukraine’s key financial and military backer, has over the past year provided Kyiv with nearly $50billion in assistance.

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