New satellite imagery of Crimea from Maxar Technologies shows an intricate network of trenches in the occupied territory of the peninsula. Russia has built dozens of defensive structures, which span several miles, the Washington Post reports, adding that these structures demonstrate Russia’s fear of losing Crimea.
The trenches are being built by a combination of machinery and physical labor, with some trenches appearing in a matter of days. They have started to appear all across Crimea, but seem to be centered along coastal areas, which could potentially pose a challenge to a Ukrainian attempt to establish a beachhead.
The fortifications were erected ahead of an expected spring offensive by Ukrainian forces. President Volodymyr Zelensky has previously pledged that Crimea will be returned to Ukraine, while Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has vowed to never give it up.
Though Russia has built defenses elsewhere, the scale in Crimea stands out, according to the experts interviewed by the Washington Post. “For Putin, Crimea is just a sacred cow,” Ian Matveev, a Russian military analyst, said. “If something happens, troops will be immediately sent to this line of defense.”
Crimea was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014, with international leaders requesting its return to Ukraine.