Barricades and trenches have been built on beaches and close to key access routes in Crimea on a massive scale as Vladimir Putin is scared of losing the peninsula he annexed in 2014.
The level of fear is clear from the abundance of defences to stop a sea or land assault.
Dragon’s teeth tank traps have been placed at strategic Ak-Monai beside the Taurida highway by occupying Russians to stop a Ukrainian bid to grab back the peninsula Putin took in 2014.
Putin has accepted he must decimate the region’s huge tourism industry this summer to hold it against a possible Ukrainian advance as part of an expected Kyiv counteroffensive.
The scale of the operation is seen on both satellite images and ground level pictures.
The once beautiful spots have now been covered with trenches and tank traps
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) sits with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during a meeting at the Kremlin on Wednesday
Beaches – one popular with both Russian and Ukrainian tourists as a favourite and glamorous summer playground – have been rendered virtually unusable, wiping out the Summer 2023 season.
Many will be totally empty.
The northern coastlines of Crimea are being defended most acutely amid the clearest signs Putin’s military commanders see the peninsula as vulnerable.
Defensive artillery positions have been established.
This comes after a missile fired from Ukrainian-held territory was shot down over the Black Sea town of Feodosia, Crimea, this morning.
‘A missile launched from Ukraine was shot down over Feodosia,’ Sergei Aksyonov said on Telegram, without providing any detail on the kind of projectile in question.
Russia’s TASS news agency quoted an adviser to Aksyonov, Oleg Kryuchkov, as saying that debris had fallen in a Crimean town, but no damage or casualties had been reported.
Russian-installed officials in Crimea have previously accused Ukrainian forces of drone attacks, though Kyiv has typically refrained from claiming responsibility.
Russia in late March said it had shot down a U.S.-supplied GLSDB guided smart bomb fired by Ukrainian forces for the first time, without disclosing where.
The newly prepared beaches look completely different now
Another look at one of the trenches built along Crimea’s beaches
Pictures showing the alleged explosion in Feodosia, Crimea
Fragments from allegedly downed Ukranian missile which appeared
An illustrative image showing the potential downed missile
Earlier this week, Ukraine said it might negotiate with Russia on Crimea, but only if it advances to the borders of the peninsula, a massive advance from its current positions.
For Putin the loss would be devastating, perhaps a terminal blow, and is seen as unthinkable in Moscow.
Hardline chairman of Russian parliament’s international affairs committee Leonid Slutsky said: ‘The status of Crimea is not subject to discussion at all.
‘It’s an issue that has been decided following the 2014 referendum and has been enshrined in the Russian constitution. The peninsula is forever an inseparable part of Russia.’
He claimed Kyiv had ‘neither the strength nor resources’ to grab back Crimea.
Yan Gagin, an advisor to the annexed authorities in Donetsk People’s Republic, dismissed Ukraine’s hopes of reaching Crimea as ’empty talk which means absolutely nothing’.
Yet the defences indicate Russia is deeply worried.
There are two land routes into Crimea from Ukraine – now both reinforced by new recently-built defences.
Some beaches have been mined, according to Ukrainian sources.
The dictator is facing imminent economic carnage in the annexed peninsula’s once money-spinning vacation industry as people refuse to heed official calls to make ‘patriotic bookings’ this summer.
Almost every beach in the occupied territory has now – or will have – giant barricades, with Ukraine claiming that they are also mined by the Russians.
Putin sees holiday jewel Crimea’s illegal annexation in 2014 as one of his greatest achievements, yet there is now paranoia that Ukraine could use Western weapons to grab back a territory larger than Wales.
Bookings are now 80 per cent down on last year, which, in turn, was 30 per cent below pre-war levels, with hoteliers demanding state bailouts to compensate them for the cost of Putin’s war.
One of the trenches being prepared for invasion
An aerial view of what the beach trenches look like
Ukrainian servicemen fire an artillery shell near the frontline area amid the Russia-Ukraine war, in Bakhmut
A TikTok video is posted showing the wooden planks inside the trenches
Tourists to the Black Sea have been spooked by the October 2022 bomb attack on Putin’s Kerch Strait bridge linking Crimea to Russia, and missile strikes on military airfields.
Drone attacks are now an almost daily event.
Ukrainian official Anton Gerashchenko said: ‘Well, that’s it, here we are – there will be no beach season in Crimea this year…
‘All the beaches of the Russian-occupied peninsula will be turned into a coastal defence line and mined.’
Putin’s puppet leader in Crimea, hardliner Sergey Aksyonov, told Russian state TV that ‘thanks to the measures taken on behalf of our President, nothing threatens Crimea’.
He urged Russian tourists not to be put off by ‘fake information’ on safety which he blamed on Ukrainian officials.
Yet the peninsula’s main airport has been closed for 13 months and Aksyonov’s war rhetoric is unlikely to encourage tourists.
‘We have a large number of people working on [securing the beaches],’ he said, stressing that the defences were on Putin’s orders.
‘If you want peace, prepare for the war – so we better be ready.’
He refused to give ‘all details’ on the defences but boasted there was ‘no way with new fortification lines that Ukraine can ever take Crimea – the only real danger is drones.’