Since Russia collected what was left of their forces in northern Ukraine and made a run for the Belarus border, almost all of the attention has focused on the Donbas region. Which isn’t surprising, since Russia already announced that it was going to redirect its attention there.
The absolutely best outcome for Russia at this point would seem to be capturing more territory in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, and completing the capture of Mariupol. Then they could form a continuous slice of land from the Russian border to the Crimea and have it all “volunteer” to join Russia. Just the way that all those people herded onto busses in occupied Ukrainian towns are “volunteering” to move to prison camps somewhere in Russia.
Many of the analysts projecting Russia’s next move would also include “and capture Odessa,” cutting Ukraine off from the Black Sea. But that suggestion seems to forget this: Russia is about to lose big, right down there next to the Black Sea coast.
That’s because, at the same time that Ukraine forces went on the offensive near Kyiv, capturing one nearby village and suburb after another, they were doing the same thing southeast of the city of Mykolaiv. Multiple attempts to capture the city were repelled by Ukrainian forces and then, over a series of days within the last two weeks, Ukrainian forces broke out of Mykolaiv, pushing to the southeast. They recaptured villages and towns like Kotlyareve, Shevchenkove, and Luch in just two days of fast movement. Russian forces attempted to shift into a move on Kryvyi Rih, but that also failed.
The result was that by the end of the month Ukrainian forces were situated just outside Kherson, Russian helicopters and UAVs had been forced to flee from the local airport, and it looked like just a matter of time before Ukraine forces gathered their strength and pushed in to take back the only large city Russia has completely taken since the invasion began.
Kherson (pop. 284,000) was the scene of fierce fighting during the first three days of the war, with Russia first capturing, then losing, then recapturing, the re-losing, the key bridge across the Dnieper River on the northeast edge of the city. Even at the time, there were many analysts wondering why no one blew up that bridge to prevent the Russian advance into the city. The answer seems to be: because traitors.
Local officials in Kherson were among those who received bribes to roll over to the Russian invasion and it seems like, in this case at least, those bribes stuck. Less than a week after the invasion began, Ukrainian forces moved off toward Mykolaiv and Kherson was handed over to the Russians with relatively little fighting, bridge intact.
Then the Ukrainians pushed back from Mykolaiv, marched right to the outskirts of Kherson, and that’s where things remained even as Russia was strategically running away like a scalded cat in the north.
For the Ukrainian forces, Kherson does represent something of a challenge. After all, Russia may specifically target hospitals and shelters labeled “Children Inside,” but Ukrainian forces can’t be too keen to start lobbing artillery toward Russians camped inside their own city. However, it seems like Russia may be about to solve that problem for them.
If Russian forces retreat across the Dnieper, it’s a good bet that they will pull down that bridge behind them when they go. That is definitely something that Russian forces currently scattered along the west bank of the river from Beryslav to Ivanivka might want to consider. Otherwise, they’re likely to be on the mop-end of some “mopping up,” and that’s never a good place to be.
If Russia pulls back across the Dnieper, it represents a natural defensive position that will be hard for Ukrainian forces to break through at Kherson. However, Ukraine has control of multiple bridges farther up the river, which they can utilize to come down on Russian-occupied Melitopol from the north.
If Russia leaves Kherson and retreats to the east, it’s also pretty much saying farewell to prospects of capturing Odessa. Russia’s only option would be to stage an amphibious assault, which are difficult maneuvers in the best of times, requiring a combination of coordination, competence, and surprise to pull off successfully. So far in this war, Russia is zero for all three of those.
And the people of Kherson may be about to have one helluva celebration.
Wednesday, Apr 6, 2022 · 1:12:48 AM +00:00
Reports that in locations farther from Kyiv, where Russians had more time to prepare, they have have “covered their tracks” better than in Bucha.
Wednesday, Apr 6, 2022 · 1:17:41 AM +00:00
Russian state media is now claiming that “Ukrainian sabotage groups” are in Kherson creating “provocations” that can be blamed on Russia. Which can be read simply as another acknowledgement that Russian forces are about to leave the town, and whatever they have done there is going to be revealed.
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