The breakdown that could trigger Putin’s deadliest rampage yet

Image illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty

Image illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty

The Kremlin’s chief executioner in Crimea was not ashamed of slaughtering some 70,000 of his neighbors.

Rosalia Zemlyachka told the Sebastopol newspaper, “We need a ruthless, relentless struggle against the snakes hiding in secret.” few words, “We must wipe them out, wipe them out with an iron broom, with a sea of ​​blood, everywhere.”

Seeing firsthand the massacre at Zemlyachka, Russian opposition leader Sergei Melgunov said the lampposts of Crimea’s largest city were “profusely adorned with wind-swept corpses.” At the nearby beach resort of Feodosia, Melganov and other officials said they saw the Zemlyachka commander as pits burying the town’s wells. Melgunov said that when the shafts were full of tortured soldiers and civilians, he tied his victims to planks, either roasting them alive in furnaces or drowning them in boats in the Black Sea.

“It’s a pity to waste cartridges on them,” said Zemlyachka.

To be sure, Western leaders now grappling with the question of whether to encourage and finance Ukraine’s bid to seize back Crimea may not be familiar with the Kyiv-born secret policeman whom locals call Known as a demon.

Secret mission to free Crimea from Putin’s clutches

Yet back in Moscow – a century after Zemlechka oversaw the Bolsheviks’ extermination of a population nearly three times the size of Key West at the end of the Russian Civil War – the demon remains a darling of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who the KGB There is a superstar at the headquarters. , and the poster ghoul for what Russia is capable of if Ukraine marches on Crimea.

“Ukraine will be liquidated,” are the words of Putin’s famous primetime shill and alleged war criminal Vladimir Solovyov who works on television almost nightly to rekindle the spirit of Zemlechka.

“Russia’s military mindset has always been one of destruction,” says a veteran Kremlin expert who spent many years in Moscow and was attached to a Western intelligence agency. “What has been remarkable since the fall of Kherson is that we never First heard Russian politicians and propagandists stepping up a terror campaign to a level reminiscent of the Bolshevik Revolution. They are off the charts.

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<p>People arriving from Kherson await evacuation further into the depths of Russia at the railway station in Dzhankoi, Crimea, October 21, 2022.</p>
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<div class="इनलाइन-इमेज__क्रेडिट">  Stringer / AFP via Getty Images </div>
<p>” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/MP11QOPrDk.VJ0HTvNfRwA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ2Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/thedailybeast.com/ 72676a3bef2e6f1d6e7256c394d12ed4″/><noscript><img alt=People arriving from Kherson await evacuation further into the depths of Russia at the railway station in Dzhankoi, Crimea, October 21, 2022.

Stringer / AFP via Getty Images

” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/MP11QOPrDk.VJ0HTvNfRwA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ2Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/thedailybeast.com/72676a3bef2e6f1d6e7256c394d12ed4″ class=”caas-img”/>

People arriving from Kherson await further evacuation in the depths of Russia at the railway station of Dzhankoi, Crimea, October 21, 2022.

Stringer / AFP via Getty Images

No wonder none of this is 2022 Nobel Peace Prize winner Oleksandra Matveichuk.

“The Russians can afford their war criminals who win,” Matveichuk told The Daily Beast at a recent dinner in Paris. “The Russians cannot tolerate their war criminals who lose.”

Matvychuk, director of Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties, says her organization has so far identified more than 21,000 cases of Russian war crimes in Ukraine. The desecration in Bucha, Izium and Kherson is so horrific that he and other human rights lawyers are now imploring UN member states to “develop a new definition of war crimes and a method of prosecuting them”.

Olena Tregub is dedicated to convincing Putin’s war criminals to be losers. She is also a woman who knows her guns and ammo. Tregub is an outspoken member of the Ukrainian government’s anti-corruption committee, and her job is to ensure that every penny of foreign aid and munitions caisson sustains a war effort that ultimately aims to raise its country’s flag over Crimea.

“We go big,” Tregub says. “We take back Crimea. This is the only way to punish Russia for Putin’s crimes in Ukraine.

For centuries the proud vision of expelling Russian imperialism has inspired the imagination of Ukraine. “The fortifications of Sivash are so strong that the Red High Command has neither the men nor the machines to break them.” few words Guaranteed to its readers in 1920. “All the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union cannot intimidate the Crimeans.”

In fact, the German-Baltic commander defending Crimea, General Pyotr Wrangel, was so confident of victory that he created a new medal of honor called the Order of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, an award that was later awarded to Mother Theresa, Pope John given. Paul II, and Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian woman to be sent into space.

Back on Earth, French lieutenant general and former NATO commandant Michel Yakovlev says, “I’m not sure Ukraine needs to recover Crimea.” In an interview with The Daily Beast beneath crystal chandeliers and murals of naked cherubs inside the French Senate, the battle-hardened veteran of Operation Desert Storm and NATO’s campaigns in Bosnia and Kosovo over the past nine months spoke to Ukrainian politicians and military strategists struggled with.

<डिव वर्ग ="inline-image__caption"

<p>Antonovsky Bridge, which was reportedly demolished to prevent Ukrainian forces from crossing the Dnieper River as Russian forces withdrew to the left side of the river, seen after the Russian withdrawal from Kherson, Ukraine, on November 14, 2022 has gone.  The only transport road from Kherson to the Crimea was the Antonovsky Bridge.</p>
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<div class="इनलाइन-इमेज__क्रेडिट">  Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images</div>
<p>” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/EdH8kICg1yxC3wcJguvw_w–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ3MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/thedailybeast.com/498e8785429e70395666b69afcd5822b” /><noscript><img alt=Antonovsky Bridge, which was reportedly demolished to prevent Ukrainian forces from crossing the Dnieper River as Russian forces withdrew to the left side of the river, seen after the Russian withdrawal from Kherson, Ukraine, on November 14, 2022 has gone. The only transport road from Kherson to the Crimea was the Antonovsky Bridge.

Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/EdH8kICg1yxC3wcJguvw_w–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ3MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/thedailybeast.com/498e8785429e70395666b69afcd5822b” class= “caas-img”/>

The Antonovsky Bridge, which was reportedly demolished to prevent Ukrainian forces from crossing the Dnieper River as Russian forces withdrew to the left side of the river, during the Russian retreat from Kherson, Ukraine, November 14, 2022 Seen later. The only transport road from Kherson to the Crimea was the Antonovsky Bridge.

Metin Aktas / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

“We are not sure how much of the Crimean population will want to return to Ukraine,” Yakovlev warns. “An internationally sanctioned referendum to accommodate the thousands of Russians brought in involuntarily after the 2014 Russian occupation may be diplomatically difficult. Internal tussles will remain. Taking back Crimea may be a mixed blessing.”

The reaction of Andrey Yermak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, largely explains Kyiv’s position on which side ultimately controls Crimea. “Does anyone seriously think the Kremlin really wants peace?” He wrote on twitter, “It wants obedience.”

But as the havoc winters in, the only certainty is that the peninsula belongs to Moscow pizza Or “the stylish ones” as the Russian Riviera is referred to is the eye of an ongoing storm between Ukraine and its Western allies.

“We don’t offer policy,” says a Western intelligence operative. “We know how Russia operates, its military capabilities and capabilities. Most importantly, the Russians don’t care about losses, and they still have plenty of air to terrorize Ukraine beyond bombs and missiles. power and other dirty tricks. Many people have difficulty accepting those realities.”

The irony of the situation is clear. “Russia has also been digging heavily in eastern Ukraine for eight years,” he added. “So it would be really easier to militarily recapture Crimea than Donbass.”

On the one hand, allowing Crimea to remain home to the Russian and Black Sea fleets could be the tranquilizer that calms Putin into making peace while retaining his power. Intelligence analysts suggest that such brokered peace will not last.

“Strategically, isolate the Russians, because you don’t want to give them time to rebuild and come back, which they will,” he says. “The longer you can force Russia to rebuild its military, the better off for Europe and the rest of the democratic world.”

Bloody hands on the other hand, how much more Russian-inspired trauma can Ukraine absorb? Back in 1933, at the height of the Holodomor, a two-year terror-famine enforced by Stalin, Ukrainians were dying at a rate of 28,000 per day, for a total death toll of nearly 4 million. Yakovlev insists that history ensures a Ukrainian victory this time.

“The most powerful army in Europe is defeating Putin,” says Yakovlev. “If Putin survives, he will be the only Russian leader to survive a defeat of this magnitude. His personal fate is sealed.

On the other hand, Hannah Shelest, director of the security and military analysis group Prism in Kiev, has valid reason for concern. “I trained as NATO officers at a war college,” she explains. “The only map of Ukraine was in my office. None of my students knew the distance between Crimea and the nearest NATO country. It’s the same thing eight years after Putin’s invasion of Crimea,” Shelest says. “NATO has no strategic vision for Crimea.”

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