Ukraine: Aftermath of Russian missile attacks on Odesa
British troops are training an elite Ukrainian commando brigade to cripple Russian forces and recapture Crimea before Christmas, sources claim.
More than 2,000 soldiers have arrived at a remote location on Dartmoor to take part in specialist exercises.
Sources say they will form the tip of the spear in an invasion, while two other forces mount concurrent attacks.
On Saturday night, Ukrainian intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov confirmed forces would enter Crimea “soon”.
The operation will involve strikes from air, land and sea with Ukrainian commandos using technology to undermine and paralyse Russian troops.
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Elsewhere, armoured units will punch through defences with operations being supported by a new stock of long-range missiles being supplied from the UK, US and Germany.
The training is being carried out at Battle Camp in Okehampton, Devon, which has been closed to all other military units and members of the public.
Overseen by Royal Marines from 42 Commando, it includes classic long-approach marches followed by company group commando attacks using live ammunition at night.
On Saturday night, one senior UK military source said emphasis was being placed on using agile Nato tactics to help Ukrainian troops “shape the battle space” before striking at the heart of the enemy.
“The operation to retake it will be one deploying multiple assaults on Russian forces,” said the source.
“We can train them in our tactics and show how to use equipment, but success will come from the Ukrainians’ own ability to quickly adapt and overcome challenges.”
Moscow expert Keir Giles, author of Russia’s War on Everybody, said the retaking of Crimea is part of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s stated aim that all occupiers be removed from Ukrainian soil.
Mr Giles, of the Chatham House think-tank, said: “This is unlikely to be achieved through a blitzkrieg strike unless Russian forces have completely collapsed. But if attacks on the Kerch bridge continue, and they interdict the railway line and this coincides with the offensive that threatens other routes, eventually, that must have an impact on just how viable Russia’s hold on Crimea is.”
The news comes as attacks on Ukraine continued on Saturday. At least nine people, including two children, were injured when missiles hit an apartment block in the eastern city of Dnipro.
A building belonging to Ukraine’s security services (SBU) was also hit.
Meanwhile, Mr Giles dismissed claims by Vladimir Putin that he was “carefully studying” a peace plan proposed by African leaders.
It was presented at a Russia-Africa Summit held in St Petersburg. Putin has used anti-colonial fervour to whip up support from African nations, which represent the largest UN voting bloc.
But there were indications his popularity was waning as the reality of Russia’s Black Sea grain blockade hits home.
Of Africa’s 54 countries, only 17 heads of state were at the two-day summit, compared to 43 at the first summit in 2019.
Putin has pledged Russia would replace grain exports with its own, but the gesture was rejected by most African states and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was merely “a handful of donations”.
Mr Giles said there was no hope of the African peace plan gaining traction.
It calls for a Russian withdrawal, the removal of tactical nuclear weapons from Belarus, the suspension of the International Criminal Court arrest warrant against Putin and the ending of sanctions.
Mr Giles said: “That plan is unworkable because African nations recognise the root cause of the conflict is Russia’s invasion, and the baseline is Russia withdrawing – not something Putin is willing to do.”
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