Vice Admiral Oleksiy Neizhpapa called on Kyiv’s western backers to stop restricting Ukraine from firing on military targets inside Russia after the recent success of long-range attacks on Russian-occupied Crimea.
While the US, UK and France have supplied long-range missiles to Ukraine – albeit after 15 months of Russia’s full-scale invasion – Kyiv’s forces are still not allowed to use those weapons outside of its own territory.
Other western allies, such as Germany, have refused even to supply their long-range weapons, known as Taurus missiles, for fear that Russia may retaliate by escalating its war either by using nuclear warheads or by targeting areas outside of Ukraine.
But after Ukraine conducted multiple successful attacks on Vladimir Putin’s prized Black Sea Fleet in Crimea towards the end of last year, including an assault that destroyed a military submarine and another that brought down a naval headquarters, Kyiv is again urging its allies to rethink its policy.
“The sooner the armed forces have the necessary battle capabilities and certain capabilities to destroy the enemy’s infrastructure facilities, the sooner we will win,” Vice Admiral Neizhpapa told Sky News.
“If Ukraine had certain types of long-range weapons which can be used deeper at the enemy territory, of course, the enemy would have behaved differently, including on the battlefield.”
He added that Putin was “like a small-scale gangster” who would back down from a fight if he knew he would be matched blow for blow.
While Ukraine has struck areas in mainland Russia, including a recent attack earlier this month on an oil facility in St Petersburg, more than 500 miles from the Ukrainian border, they have used domestically-produced drones to carry out those assaults.
The ability to damage Russian infrastructure with these drones does not compare to western-supplied long-range missiles.
“If [Putin] understands that Ukraine can fight back and make him really feel pain, of course, he will give all this up,” the Vice Admiral added.
Ukraine’s Black Sea attacks were the highlight of their otherwise lacklustre counteroffensive last summer – though some considered the strikes tangential to the ground war – but more long-range assaults remain key to degrading Russia’s ability to resupply its frontline forces.
John Foreman, the former UK defence attache to Moscow and Kyiv, told The Independent that the flow of soldiers, materiel, fuel and ammunition to occupied mainland Ukraine is still continuing through the Crimean peninsula despite the attacks.
“And the Russians are building new roads and railways between Russia proper (Rostov on Don – by the southeast Ukrainian border) and the ‘land corridor’ to provide an alternative to the Kerch Bridge,” he said, referring to Russian plans to find more direct routes to supply its forces.
With Russia’s war in Ukraine entering its third calendar year, Vice Admiral Neizhpapa said it was time for a rethinking of strategy. Now is the time to let Ukraine hit mainland Russia, he said.
“The enemy is adapting, and we must also adapt,” he said. “A modern war is a war of technologies. Whoever wins in the technological sense will have victory.”