On Aug. 24, 1991, Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union. Despite Moscow’s recent efforts to reabsorb it, Kyiv marked that anniversary by replanting its blue and yellow flag in the soil of occupied Crimea.
Details of the operation remain scarce, but according to Ukraine’s military intelligence apparatus, the joint navy–special forces mission sent sailors to the occupied peninsula, who then attacked Russian forces, destroyed heavy equipment, and raised the Ukrainian flag, all while sustaining zero casualties, according to reporting from the BBC and CNN.
To support its claim, Ukraine’s defense ministry released a video showing special forces traveling in inflatable boats near a coastline in the dark and said that the special operation achieved all of its objectives — although, as Al Jazeera points out, what exactly those objectives were remains unexplained.
Moscow has not commented on the incident, and it remains unconfirmed, though footage from Russia’s Defense Ministry, provided by CNN, appears to show a fighter jet in combat with Ukrainian inflatable boats.
Other unofficial sources seem to corroborate Kyiv’s claim. Reports of gunfire in western Crimea have floated through Russian military blogs and Telegram channels, reports CNN, with one such channel claiming that “a Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group landed in the area of Cape Tarkhankut [a region in western Crimea] … and fled in the direction of Odesa.”
Good News for Ukraine
With Crimea being the region of Ukraine longest occupied by Russian troops — which entered the region in 2014, eight years before Moscow’s full invasion of Ukraine — the independence-day raid, if it can be confirmed to have actually occurred, holds symbolic significance for the embattled nation, regardless of its military aims.
The symbolism of Ukraine planting its flag and operating in a region occupied by Russia for almost a decade now is even more significant, since Kyiv’s battlefield advances have remained small.
The Institute for the Study of War believes, however, that those small and simple frontline gains should not be discounted. The institute reminded its readers on Aug. 17 that those small gains are still “tactically significant.” Indeed, Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of Russian militia group Vostok Battalion, has even suggested that “Russia freeze the war in Ukraine along the current frontlines.”
Regardless, Kyiv’s ability to sail past those lines and replant its banner on the long-occupied Crimean Peninsula suggests that the Ukrainians have no intention of rolling over for the Russian war machine. This war — which has now claimed almost half a million lives — will continue to rage.