Ukraine Special Operations Forces Raid Crimea

Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence said it carried out a raid on Crimea a day after it destroyed a key SAM system at same location.

byHoward Altman|
Ukraine's Defense Intelligence Directorate says it raided Crimea Thursday.
Screenshot. Ukraine Defense Intelligence Directorate screencap


Early in the morning on the second Independence Day after Russia's all-out invasion of its country, Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR) says it sent special units, supported by the Navy, to carry out a brazen raid on the Crimean peninsula towns of Olenivka and Mayak.

Entering by small boat, they landed on the shore, engaged Russians in combat, killed troops, destroyed equipment and planted the Ukrainian flag, the GUR said on its Telegram channel. We have no way of verifying that, but the raid came a day after the GUR said it destroyed a Russian S-400 air defense system a short distance away, which you can read more about here.

“All goals and tasks have been completed,” the GUR said Thursday of the early morning raid on the strategically important Cape Tarkhankut. It is the western-most point in Crimea, jutting out into the Black Sea about 90 miles south of the front lines in Kherson Oblast and about 115 miles southeast of Odesa. “At the end of the special operation, the Ukrainian defenders left the scene without casualties.”

In a 56-second video posted by the GUR on YouTube, its troops are seen coming ashore on a small boat armed and attaching the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag to a building. There is the sound of what appears to be several rounds fired by suppressor-equipped rifles as the troops apparently leave again by boat.

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The Russian SHOT media outlet reported on its Telegram channel Thursday that the first sounds of gunfire were heard at about 3:50 a.m. local time “at the Olenivka Village campsite in the village of Olenivka. Eyewitnesses say that there were shots, presumably from RPGs.”

When people woke up and left houses and tents on the beach, “they saw two rubber boats not far from the shore. There were 10 unknowns in them. One of them fired at the campsite. But he hit only once, after which the group disappeared.”

Any objective of the mission, beyond its symbolism and psychological impact, remains unclear at the moment. 

As we noted in our story yesterday about the destruction of the S-400 system, Cape Tarkhankut was an ideal location for such a system and taking out this battery would potentially open a hole in Russia's air defense overlay of the peninsula and the northwestern Black Sea. Its destruction would have lowered the risk of the raid. There are also reports yesterday, so far unconfirmed by any official agency, of an attack on a Russian K-300P Bastion-P coastal defense missile system that launches P-800 Oniks anti-ship cruise missiles in that same part of Crimea. Hitting that system there, if that occurred, could have also been critical to the success of the special operations raid.

In addition, Mayak, which the GUR said was another objective of Thursday's raid, “is a base of the 3rd Radio Engineering Regiment as part of the radio engineering troops of the Aerospace Forces of the Russian Federation,” Radio Free Liberty/Radio Europe’s Crimean Realities reported Thursday on its Telegram channel. “Also on the Tarkhankut Peninsula - there is a radar node - the Nebo-M [multi-band] radar and the Kasta-2E2 [low-altitude 3D omnidirectional stand-by] radar. Positions for air defense were prepared along the perimeter.”

Russian radar systems in Mayak, according to Crimean Realities. (Crimean Realities Telegram)
A Kasta 2E2 low-altitude 3D omnidirectional stand-by radar system. (Militarnyi photo)

Crimean Realities, which posted information on its Telegram channel about the incident before the GUR announcement, said explosions were heard in that village at about 5 a.m.

“In addition, our sources in Ukrainian intelligence confirmed that a battle took place in the area involving watercraft and aircraft. Details have not yet been specified,” Crimean Realities reported before the GUR confirmation.

It is unknown whether the radar equipment was a target and what if any damage resulted to it from this raid. We reached out to Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, head of the GUR, for additional details, but he told us only that “it’s the first successful operation on the ground in Crimea through many years.” We also reached out to his spokesman and will update this story with any additional details provided.

Two days ago, as we noted, Budanov made ominous veiled threats against Russian forces in Crimea.

In an interview with the ITV news agency Tuesday ahead of today’s Summit of the Crimean Platform, Budanov stated that efforts to liberate Crimea will involve “resistance in the temporarily occupied territories and the removal of occupiers from our Crimea. Our actions are apparent now, with more to come in the next few days."

Asked by The War Zone for more details about what he meant, Budanov offered a typically cryptic response.

"We will see," he said. "Wait."

You can read more about Budanov's comments in our story here.

In discussing the operation, the Rybar Telegram channel said Ukrainian Armed Forces “have been probing the soil near Crimea for several weeks, looking for loopholes for the landing operation for which the British were preparing them. And Tarkhankut is the most convenient place for this kind of action. The coastline of the cape is almost flush with the sea, which makes it ideal for approaching small boats. And if now it was just a showy sortie, then what prevented them from climbing the hill and hitting a military facility there?”

Mayak, located on Cape Tarkhankut in Crimea, is home to several Russian radar installations. (Google Earth image)

In an interview with Crimean Realities Wednesday night before the raid took place, Budanov said: “Now we have the ability to strike any part of the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic. There are many options for the de-occupation of Crimea, but it is impossible without military action.”

Budanov called upon Crimean residents supporting the cause of liberation to step forward.

“In order to ensure the maximum bloodless liberation of the peninsula and to speed it up, citizens in Crimea who are waiting for this should prepare and do everything to help, first of all, the intelligence agencies of Ukraine,” he said.

He also acknowledged that the liberation of the peninsula is proceeding slower than anticipated.

“Yes, they fell off the schedule,” Budanov told Crimean Realities. “Yes, unfortunately, it must be admitted that events are developing more slowly than they should be according to all calculations. But we have what we have. But if you look at Crimea and at the level of hostilities that are taking place on the territory of the peninsula, then you will understand that there is nothing to compare with compared to 2022, not to mention the period from 2014 to 2022. That is, we are moving towards the goal. Yes, slower than we wanted, slower than expected, but we are going.”

Ukrainian Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukraine's Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR), told Crimean Realities that his forces can strike anywhere in Crimea. (GUR photo)

There has been no comment yet from occupation officials on Crimea or the Russian Defense Ministry about this raid.

As we reported just yesterday in our story about the destruction of the S-400 system, it is possible that GUR has a network of Crimean residents who could have carried out the attack, perhaps using drones. Or it could have been carried out by an elite Ukrainian unit operating inside Crimea. We have written about both possibilities in the past.

Whether Thursday's raid was just an operation to show the flag in honor of Ukraine’s 32nd Independence Day, a mission to show it can attack at will, a strike at more Russian equipment or some combination is unknown at this time.

But clearly, this is another wake-up call to Russia that Crimea is increasingly vulnerable to Ukrainian attack. Especially so a day after a Ukrainian drone operated unimpeded as it videoed a critical air defense system there - designed to protect the skies - being destroyed.

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