Ukraine appears to have begun its new southern campaign with a bold attack Tuesday on a Russian air base in Crimea. Russia has accused the United States of providing Kyiv with intelligence information to attack Russian forces. Ukraine is able to turn its attention to the southern front because it has largely blunted Russia’s attacks in the eastern Donbas region. If Ukrainian forces can push the Russians back from Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, to the east, it would relieve pressure along the Black Sea coast and could eventually protect Ukraine's maritime access to global markets. The Biden administration says it is giving Ukraine the weapons, ammunition and training it needs to win this battle to regain occupied territory in the southern region in the south.
Ukraine’s timetable for the southern campaign is driven partly by its desire to beat a planned Russian referendum in Kherson and neighboring areas that might be a first step in declaring them “Russian” territory. U.S. officials expect that this referendum could take place this month or in September, and they fear it would intensify the war. Ukraine's battle against the invaders is evolving toward greater use of special forces in covert attacks.