Kherson, because Ukraine is taking Russia's withdrawal with a grain of salt

Kherson, because Ukraine is taking Russia's withdrawal with a grain of salt


After weeks of intense fighting, Russian occupation troops have been forced to withdraw from the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine, the only regional capital conquered since the invasion began almost nine months ago. The announcement was made live on television by Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defense minister, but the Ukrainian authorities have received it with caution, suspecting that it may be a ploy to lure Kyiv's forces into a death trap.

Trap or not, Russia’s inability to maintain control over the only large occupied city marks a further setback to Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s invasion plans. And perhaps, this is the most humiliating defeat suffered by the Russian forces, after having miserably failed to conquer Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, and following the chaotic retreat from the Kharkiv region, the second largest city in Ukraine, which never fell into the hands of the forces. of occupation.

Since the start of the Ukrainian counter-offensive, which began in September 2022, Russia has been losing ground, responding to military defeats with waves of bombing aimed at Ukrainian cities and civilians. Kyiv's troops have recaptured thousands of kilometers of territory and, in recent weeks, have concentrated around Kherson, cutting supply lines to Russian forces occupying the city since March 2, 2022.

In addition, the Ukrainian resistance has created several problems from within the city, where residents have protested against foreign military since the first days of the invasion, with sabotage and assassination of Moscow officials. Among these could also be Kirill Stremousov, number two of the occupation government, who died under mysterious circumstances in a car accident. Previously, the Russian defense ministry itself confirmed that Vladimir Saldo, number one in the regional government, had survived a poisoning attempt.

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The situation on the ground

The reconquest of the city could allow Ukraine to regain control of many southern territories, including those of the Zaporizhzhia region, where the homonymous nuclear power plant is located, and have a terrestrial access point to Crimea, illegally annexed by Russia in 2014. But according to Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky interviewed by the Associated Press, there has not yet been seen "any sign that Russia is leaving the city completely, therefore these statements could be misinformation ”.

Contrary to what happened in the Kharkiv region, where the military abandoned large quantities of weapons and ammunition during the retreat, the Russian army seems to have long been preparing for an orderly withdrawal from Kherson, or for a ambush. According to the Ukrainian authorities, a peaceful retreat seems unlikely, given the strategic importance that the city plays in the perspective of further advances in southern Ukraine and, in particular, as a land connection to Crimea, now disconnected from Russia after the destruction of the bridge over the Kerch Strait.

The Kherson region is the only one to be connected by land to the Crimea, through a narrow stretch of land, and is essential for supplying the peninsula with fresh water. A reconquest of the area, in addition to depriving Russia of this corridor, would allow Kyiv to block supplies and the passage of troops from Crimea, where the Russian Black Sea fleet is based. In addition, Ukraine could bring its artillery closer to long range to the peninsula and directly threaten Russian ships and forces in the area.

Regaining control of the Kherson region would also mean having ample room for maneuver to reach and reconquer the Zaporizhzhia region and give back to Kyiv control of a large part of its coast on the Black Sea, a critical artery for exports of food products abroad. Finally, its reconquest would take on broad symbolic significance and would indicate that, after nine months, Russia has failed to gain any major victory or acquisition from this war, aside from, perhaps, the washing machines stolen by soldiers from Ukrainian homes. >

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