A Ukrainian military official told The Times on Monday that Ukraine is preparing to target Russia’s Black Sea fleet with Western-provided arms.
“We have a permanent threat from the Russian Black Sea fleet. Given the new technologies and capabilities we receive, we have to address this threat,” Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Volodymyr Havrylov said.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the US and its allies have sent various anti-ship missiles to Ukraine, including US-made Harpoons and British-made Brimstone missiles. In June, Ukraine claimed it used two Harpoon missiles to sink a Russian tugboat.
“We are receiving anti-ship capabilities and sooner or later we will target the fleet. It is inevitable because we have to guarantee security to our people,” Havrylov said.
Havrylov also said that attacking Russia’s Black Sea fleet would help Ukraine take back Crimea, which Russia has controlled since 2014. “Sooner or later we will have enough resources to target Russia in the Black Sea and Crimea. Crimea is Ukrainian territory, that’s why any target there is legitimate for us,” he said.
Havrylov said that Russia will have “to leave Crimea if they wish to exist as a country.” Over the weekend, a Ukrainian intelligence official said Kyiv could start attacking Crimea with US-provided High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), a truck-mounted multiple rocket launcher.
The US sought assurances that Ukraine wouldn’t use the HIMARS on Russian territory, but since Ukraine and the US do not recognize Crimea as Russian, the territory is a gray area. Havrylov said Ukraine is in talks with the West on whether it can use Western-provided arms against Russian targets in Crimea.
In comments to Antiwar.com, the State Department implied the US would allow Ukraine to use the HIMARS on Crimea. When asked if the ban on using HIMARS on Russian territory applies to Ukraine, a State Department spokesperson said, “Crimea is Ukraine.”
Russia has made clear that it would view attacks on Crimea as a major escalation. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned of a “doomsday” response to such attacks and said the fact that Ukraine and some NATO countries don’t recognize Crimea as Russian is a “systemic threat” to Russia.