Big night for the home team.

What’s amazing about that array of targets isn’t just that there are so many of them. It’s how far apart they are. Belgorod is a Russian city located across the border from Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine. The Ukrainians have taken potshots at it before. Last night’s strike reminded the Kremlin that their own country isn’t off-limits for attacks.

Waaaay to the south on the Crimean coast lies Sevastopol, Russia’s key Black Sea naval base. Last week the Ukrainians stunned the Kremlin by attacking the Saky air base in Novofederovka, a part of Crimea that was thought to be so far out of range of Ukraine’s capabilities that Russian tourists were vacationing nearby. It turned out it wasn’t out of range. Neither, it seems, is Sevastopol:

Waaaay to the east of Sevastopol is the Kerch Strait, which separates Crimea from Russia. After the Russians conquered Crimea in 2014 they set about conducting a long bridge over the strait to connect their country to their new territory. Obviously that’s become a key artery for resupplying Russia’s invasion force in southern Ukraine. Guess what:

How successful any of these attacks were is unclear, although the one in Belgorod appears to have done some meaningful damage. But even if the damage was minimal, the message is clear: “We can reach you.” Whether it’s Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory or Russian cities near the border, no place is safe anymore. Somehow, every part of Crimea is now in range.

The Ukrainians also hit a weapons depot on the western side of Crimea, north of Sevastopol, for good measure:

According to Reuters, a bridge near the Kakhovska Dam in Russian-held Kherson was also struck, threatening “one of the last routes for Russia to supply thousands of troops on west bank of the Dnipro River.” One Ukrainian official gloated afterwards: “The Ukrainian armed forces treated the Russians to a magical evening.”

How are they doing it? And why are they doing it?

The “why” part is easy. Ukraine’s government continues to insist that a counteroffensive in Kherson to liberate the southern part of the country is coming but that it lacks the weapons at the moment to make a meaningful push. While they wait for those, they’re going to focus on cutting Russian supply lines and spooking the hell out of Putin and his henchmen with these Doolittle-esque strikes in territory that was thought safe from attack. “We’re using a strategy to ruin their stocks, to ruin their depots, to ruin their headquarters, commander quarters. It’s our answer to their meat-grinder tactics,” Ukraine’s defense minister said this week. The more they deplete Russian ammunition and complicate the logistics of defending Kherson, the more pressure Russia will feel to retreat rather than commit to a potentially disastrous defense. Their supply lines are getting long:

The “how” part is more complicated. The fact that Russian air defenses were engaged in some of last night’s attacks logically means Ukraine now has an air weapon with much greater range than they were thought to have. I wrote last week about some of the possibilities. Uncle Sam might have quietly slipped them some long-range HIMARS missiles, or the Ukrainians might have completed a long-range domestic missile they’ve been working on for years. (Maybe with Uncle Sam’s help.) The U.S. recently admitted to supplying Ukraine with anti-radiation missiles that can be fired from fighter jets, raising the possibility that Ukraine’s air force was involved in last night’s operation. There’s even a chance that Ukraine has gotten its hands on some long-range German-made missiles for the HIMARS system that can reach targets more than 250 miles away.

But there’s another theory, one that’s apt to feed Russia’s paranoia more than the others: Saboteurs. Ukraine’s defense minister isn’t being coy about it.

To that end, Ukraine is activating a “resistance force” under the command of Ukrainian special forces to carry out attacks far behind Russian lines, Reznikov said. The force was formed in January in accordance with a law passed last year, and in recent weeks it has been activated in Ukrainian territory held by the Russians.

Some spectacular explosions in the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula over the past week have drawn attention to the emerging strategy and to the role of Ukrainian special forces in implementing it. Ukrainian officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, have told The Washington Post that those forces were responsible for the Crimea blasts, at a Russian air base last week and at an ammunition depot and an air base on Tuesday…

Ukraine’s Western backers have been involved in training the special forces that are responsible for the attacks, said Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky. NATO partners have provided trainers to show the Ukrainians how to operate behind Russian lines, he said.

The multiple big booms at the Saky air base last week suggest some sort of air attack rather than sabotage on the ground, although it’s not necessarily either/or. Maybe ground forces were tasked with disabling Russian air defenses so that the payloads from the air could get through unhindered. However they pulled it off, rumors are swirling that they made a huge dent in Russia’s Black Sea capabilities:

Ukrainian intelligence claims they have evidence that Russia’s spooked military command is now moving aircraft to positions deeper in Crimea and even to bases in Russia to protect from surprise raids like the one that devastated Saky. Hence the impact of last night’s series of strikes — if Sevastopol and the Kerch Strait are now coming under fire, is there any part of Crimea that’s truly safe for the Russians? And if there isn’t, how do they presume to resupply their army in Kherson?

I’ll leave you with this image encapsulating the scope of Russia’s glorious victory over the last six weeks, ever since they locked up Luhansk province. Exit quotation from a Ukrainian official in Mykolaiv: “We are fighting against f***ing idiots. It’s good for us. But they have nuclear weapons. Russia is like a monkey with a hand grenade. It’s a problem for the whole world. We don’t know if they are going to blow everyone up.”

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