A top US general, now retired, has said he believes that Ukrainian forces can retake the Crimean Peninsula by next summer. Ben Hodges is the former commanding general of the United States Army Europe, and he's predicting that "Crimea will be free by summer."
He told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in statements published over the weekend, "When I look at the situation, I see that the situation of the Russians is getting worse with every week." Hodges went on to explain that Ukraine's military is likely to keep this momentum given "far superior" logistics and motivation to fight.
"They say war is a test of will and logistics – and on both counts Ukraine is far superior," Hodges told the German publication. "The Russians have to lose [the war]; otherwise, they’ll try again in two or three years."
He said the Kremlin is betting big on its "one hope" that the West and NATO countries will lose resolve in their military support for Ukraine.
The ex-top Army commander for Europe also said he expects to see more sabotage attacks against Russian assets and crucial logistics and resource hubs, such as with the recent bombings against the Kerch Strait Bridge and the Nord Stream pipelines:
"So they are doing everything they can to prolong the war and spread fear and insecurity in the West. Any means will do: The young men who are now being conscripted as cannon fodder, as well as attacks on infrastructure in the West," Hodges told FAZ.
"I believe that we will therefore see more such acts of sabotage and attacks, or at least attempts, in the coming weeks and months."
This comes as there's been stepped up cross-border shelling and missile attacks against the Russian city of Belgorod, which lies just north of the Ukrainian border not far from the major Ukraine city of Kherson.
But despite much of the past month witnessing headline after headline declare rapid advances of Ukrainian forces against the Russians in the east, the Kremlin on Sunday has announced significant new successes:
Russia’s defense ministry says its forces repelled efforts by Ukrainian troops to advance in the Donetsk, Kherson and Mykolaiv regions, inflicting what it described as significant losses against the enemy.
A ministry spokesperson said that "during fierce fighting, units of the Russian army held the positions they held, inflicting significant losses on the enemy."
Regarding speculation that Ukraine could take the fight directly to Crimea, it remains that Russia's military likely still has vast untapped manpower, as Putin's partial mobilization is still underway. It also remains that Putin has still not declared a full and formal 'state of war'. But this would likely be the case if there was any serious effort on the part of Kiev forces to invade Crimea.