Ukraine can hit the Russian Federation, but it will not use US weapons. Interview

August 26, 2022

Strikes at military facilities of the aggressor country — Russia — in Crimea caused a great political effect and panic, despite the fact that the Ukrainian side has not taken responsibility for them yet. However, it is still too early to talk about deoccupation of the peninsula. At the same time, the Ukrainian army currently has all the means necessary for destroying the enemy rear.

Ukraine has every right to hit Russian targets not only on its territory, but on the territory of Russia proper. However, according to agreements with the United States, it will not use precise American weapons for such strikes. The goal of the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, in this war is not political, it is his craziness, and therefore, he will wage this war up to the last soldier, or rouble.

This opinion was expressed by the co-director of foreign policy programmes, coordinator of international projects of Razumkov Centre, military expert Oleksiy Melnyk in an exclusive interview with OBOZREVATEL.

— "Claps" caused panic in Crimea. Traffic jams appeared on the Kerch bridge — holiday-makers were leaving the occupied peninsula, the occupational authorities even closed it for several days. What do you think will happen next? Can we say that de-occupation of Crimea is in sight?

— I think that these conclusions about what is happening on the Crimean peninsula are too premature and too optimistic. At the same time, I must admit that the level of panic there is even higher than expected. We can talk about the political and strategic goals, which Ukraine managed to achieve, despite non-admission of these strikes by our country. The political effect of these actions greatly exceeded expectations. 

— Political effect — what do you mean? 

— I mean that the classics of warfare say: any military actions have purely military or military-political goals. It's not about just shooting somewhere and destroying something. Normal planning pursues certain goals.

The aim of the attack on Novofedorivka was to destroy stockpiles of weapons and aircraft. In Dzhankoy, in addition to destruction of the stocks kept there, the goal was to disable, at least temporarily, the transport infrastructure, to undermine the logistics chain.

I don't know to what extent this second component of the political effect was considered, but it must be admitted that this strike was extremely effective from the viewpoint of achieving political goals.

— Minister Reznikov has announced that Ukraine has every right to hit enemy targets in occupied Crimea, as it is the territory of Ukraine. In particular, he emphasised that the weapons provided to Ukraine by the United States will not be used against targets in the Russian Federation, but there are no such restrictions regarding Crimea. Which of the weapons we have already received from the Allies can be used to destroy targets on the peninsula?

— This is a very interesting question, but I would like to start with something else. First of all, Ukraine has the legal right to strike Russian military targets, including on the territory of the Russian Federation. If we consider Crimea or other temporarily occupied territories, no one should have any doubts or reservations.

This is also important to understand when discussing whether the threat of "referendums" in the occupied territories will have an impact on Ukraine's freedom of action in terms of striking Russian targets. 

Some in the West are beginning to panic, as if after Russia holds "referendums" and declares these territories its own, some restrictions will be imposed on Ukraine. This is complete absurdity, as clearly demonstrated by the Crimean case.

Now, concerning promises or agreements with our partners. Indeed, there are some concerns. In the event Ukraine strikes the territory of the Russian Federation, our right to do so is beyond doubt, but it must not be a US weapon, so as not to give Russia a pretext to strike one of the NATO member states. 

These reservations are quite reasonable, so the obligations must be observed despite the existing nuances.

Now, what weapons Ukraine can use to strike targets in Crimea, far in the enemy’s rear. I think that the specific name or calibre is not important. The main thing is that Ukraine has the means, be they saboteurs, or Turkish, Ukrainian, US drones, or missiles of Ukrainian or foreign origin.

So, I will not delve into tactical or technical specifications of the exact types of weapons, moreover that I support the position of our authorities, which maintain a certain intrigue, do not admit these strikes, nor disclose details.

— The Washington Post published an article about Putin's plans, which he was building before the war in Ukraine. In particular, they included the capture of at least half of our country and the removal or even physical elimination of President Zelenskyy. May these plans still be on the agenda?

— Despite the fact that this publication is now being widely discussed, I cannot say that we did not know about them. These plans were known. 

To put it briefly, Putin's plan is to destroy Ukraine. All the rest are details. Kill Zelenskyy or capture and bring him to some "tribunal", do the same with other our officials, which part of Ukraine’s territory to capture... He is a killer who wants to kill his victim, and how he will try to do it is less important. 

The main thing we need to understand in this situation is that Putin's plans have not changed, because this is not a political goal. When a state sets a political goal and tries to achieve it by military means, it can be revised. But when it is not a political goal, but just craziness of one person, he will try to achieve it to the end. 

Putin will try to achieve his goal as long as he is allowed to do so. Defeat in this war will mean the end of Putin's political and, most likely, physical life. Therefore, the bad news is that he, realising the cost of the defeat for him personally, will fight to the last soldier, the last projectile, the last rouble.


Oleksiy Melnyk

Co-Director, Foreign Relations and International Security Programmes, Coordinator of International Projects

Born in 1962 in Khmelnytsty Rgn


Royal College of Defence Studies, London, UK (2007)

Air Field Operations Officer School, Biloxy, MS, US (2001)

Squadron Officer School, Montgomery, AL, US (1994)

Defence Language Institute, San Antonio, TX, US (1994)

Chernihiv Higher Military Air Force Academy, Ukraine (1984)


1980 – 2001 — Air Force Active Service (Cadet, Instructor Pilot, Flight Commander, Squadron Commander, Deputy Air Force Base Commander, Participant of two UN peacekeeping operations, Lt.Colonel (Ret)

2001 – 2004 — Razumkov Centre

2004 – 2005 — State Company Ukroboronservice

2005 – 2008 — Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, Head Organisational and Analytical Division — First Assistant to Minister of Defence

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