The war in Ukraine is in its sixth month, and the focus of the Russian occupying forces is on the eastern regions. However, the southern front and its connection to the eastern areas are vital to the Russians. In this situation, the Ukrainian forces are preparing a massive counterattack to liberate the strategic port city of Kherson from the Kremlin’s aggressor army. Ukrainian troops recaptured more than 40 settlements in the critical southern region. Kyiv forces have launched attacks on Russian warehouses and military positions behind the front lines and hit bridges that serve as vital supply routes for Moscow’s troops in Kherson. Last month, a Ukrainian official promised Kyiv forces would retake the Kherson region by September.
The opening gate of liberation
Dmytro Butriy, the head of the regional administration of Ukraine, said: “46 settlements in the Kherson region have been liberated from occupation. Most of the recaptured villages are located in the northern part of the region. In contrast, others are located in the southern part, close to the Black Sea and the heavily bombed area of Mykolaiv, Butriy added. Buttrey said that the humanitarian situation in the region is “very critical” and reiterated the authorities’ request for those still left in the region to “evacuate to safer areas”.
Bombing strategic bridges in the city of Kherson
Ukraine has successfully bombed critical bridges along the Dnieper River and inflicted heavy damage on Russian forces on the floating bridges. This is Ukraine’s first step to encircle and eventually quickly recapture the city of Kherson, a strategically important port city in the south, which Russia occupied in March. If successful, the liberation of Kherson is considered one of the most significant victories of Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion of this country.
The fate of Kherson may be a way to change the course of the war. If Ukraine retakes the city and disables key bridges, it can effectively end Russian advances in the south by preventing passage on both sides of the Dnieper River. But if Russia can hold Kherson, the city could be the gateway to a new Russian offensive to conquer the critical port city of Odesa.
Ukraine’s strategy relies on the successful destruction of three critical bridges along the Dnieper near Kherson – two in the suburbs of Antonyuka, and the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant, which also serves as a bridge. With these routes lost to Russian heavy weapons and armour, the only reliable route for Russian reinforcements from the south to reach Kherson was a river crossing near Zaporizhia – some 125 miles away.
Western-backed missile system
Kyiv has spent months preparing for this late summer counterattack, as Ukrainian forces train and use heavy weapons from Western partners, such as the Hymers high-mobility artillery missile systems. After weeks of slow progress towards the Kherson region and the recapture of 44 villages and towns, the liberation of Kherson shows the world that Ukraine has the tools and know-how to lower Russia’s sails and, in the words of President Volodymyr Zelensky, act to liberate the occupied territories.
Ukraine’s potential battleground relies on a sophisticated mix of all the modern weapons systems offered by the West, including multiple launch rocket systems, artillery systems, and drones. While Russia often uses its artillery superiority to destroy and destroy the cities it seeks to conquer, Ukraine aims to cut off the weaker occupiers of Kherson from Russian reinforcements moving up from the south. Meanwhile, most Russian military forces are concentrated in the Donbas – in eastern Ukraine. According to British defence officials, Ukraine’s plan is working, and Kherson is “virtually” cut off from other occupied territories.
The main cost of reconciliation
Recapturing Kherson is a problematic issue, and occupied Kherson has quickly become a nightmare for its residents. A new Human Rights Watch report details how the Russian occupiers behaved in the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions and “disappeared,” illegally and arbitrarily detaining and torturing people.
Moscow is formally annexing Kherson and has now deployed officials there to hold a fake Crimea-style referendum on joining Russia—something that could provide legal cover for Russia to send conscripts to the region. With Russian forces exhausted from near-constant fighting, the deployment of fresh troops will bolster their defensive posture and give Moscow more options to attack southern Ukraine.
Russian overt crimes
The crimes committed by Russian forces in places like Bucha and Irpin were not isolated incidents, and assassinations are widespread in Russian-controlled territory. This only increases Ukraine’s urgency to liberate the occupied territories and ensure that Kyiv has the equipment and training necessary to succeed. Despite some recent calls by prominent Western figures for Ukraine to end the war and potentially cede territory to Russia, these ongoing assassinations show how the actual cost of such agreements is being paid.
An official of the Kherson region said that Western support will be vital in the coming weeks and that Kherson will be in Ukraine’s hands until the end of September. While this forecast may be optimistic, Ukraine’s success in the coming weeks will be critical to ensuring that Ukraine regains access to the Black Sea for commercial shipping. Despite a shaky deal with Russia that allows some commercial shipping, the Kremlin retains the ability to restore its Black Sea blockade and could cut off Ukraine’s global food supply.
The war in Ukraine has been characterized by stunning initial success in repelling Moscow’s blitzkrieg, followed by slow and devastating losses in the east. A successful counteroffensive that both retakes Kherson and halts Russia’s advance in the south could give Kyiv the initiative to push back not only Moscow but vital Western support that has been dwindling in recent weeks.
Ukrainian paramilitary forces appear to have launched a campaign of assassination of pro-Russian officials in the Kherson region ahead of a planned offensive to retake the area. Over the past few months, vandals have increased their attacks in the Kherson region. In June, a car bomb killed the head of the prison service and a senior pro-Russian official in the civilian government there. In July, a bomb targeted a car carrying two police officers, reportedly killing one of them. These assassinations take place while Ukraine is preparing to retake this strategic area.
The impending battle of Kherson will be one of the most critical battles in Ukraine since the defence of Kyiv. With intelligent use of its new arsenal and a bit of luck, Ukraine may be able to turn the tide against the invaders and give the world a glimmer of hope that Ukraine will defeat Russia. A successful counteroffensive that both retakes Kherson and halts Russia’s advance in the south could provide Kyiv with the initiative to push back not only Moscow but vital Western support that has been dwindling in recent weeks. Last month, a Ukrainian official promised Kyiv forces would retake the Kherson region by September.
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