Ukrainian forces brace for bloody fight for Kherson

  • Russian-controlled Kherson is under close siege by Ukrainian forces.
  • Recapturing the city would be a major victory in the war.
  • Kherson acts as a gateway to the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
  • Soldiers in the trenches foresee a fierce battle ahead.

KHERSON, western part of Ukraine. November 4th Oleh, a Ukrainian mechanized infantry commander dug in trenches west of Kherson, believes his Russian enemies will have to abandon the strategic port because of the winter weather. Surrounding threat.

But neither he nor his men, nor the Russians, thought they would go quietly so quickly, nor did he intend to let them.

His comments raised the specter of a bloody battle in the coming weeks for control of the main city on the west bank of the Dnipro River, which acts as a gateway to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia seized in 2014.

“They will continue to fight. They will defend their positions as long as they have the ability to do so,” said Oleh, 26, who has risen through the ranks since he was a teenager. “It’s going to be a tough fight.”

Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of the administration of the Russian military deployment in the Kherson region, said on Thursday that he expected Russian forces to start fighting.

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“If we leave Kherson, it will be a big blow,” he said in comments broadcast by Russia’s RT television.

The contest for the only provincial capital captured by Moscow, which began on February 24, was one of the most consequential consequences of the war so far.

For Russian President Vladimir Putin A series of significant battlefield losses since mid-August would be another setback.

With control of the west bank of the Dnipro, Ukrainian forces will have a springboard to seize the bridgehead on the eastern side to advance Crimea.

Crimea is home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, and Kiev has set its sights on restoring the peninsula.

If Kherson falls in a counteroffensive, experts say it would be a political embarrassment for Putin, as Kherson is one of four partially occupied regions of Ukraine. September 30.

“Essentially it was a huge political blow,” said Philip Ingram, a retired British military intelligence officer. “It will cost him (Putin) militarily. It will be worse for the Russians if the Ukrainians can get a bridgehead on the eastern side of the Dnipro.”

“Ukrainians will crush Russians defending the approaches to Crimea,” said retired U.S. General Ben Hodges, former commander of U.S. forces in Europe.

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A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Russians had begun a “systematic withdrawal” from the west bank of the Dnipro.

Itching to attack.

In recent weeks, thousands of civilians have been evacuated from the city and the surrounding area east of the Dnipro after Russian-appointed authorities warned of the dangers posed by Ukraine’s advances.

Russian President Putin on Friday publicly supported the evacuation from Kiev, which Russia denies, including the forced expulsion of civilians from Russian-occupied territory.

Occupation authorities have moved administrative offices and records to the East Bank, and a Western source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said most Russian military commanders had also moved their bases.

U.S. officials and Ukrainian commanders said the Russians were reinforcing their front lines, including deploying recently mobilized reserves to better protect the retreat.

A U.S. official said some Ukrainian soldiers believed poorly trained Russian reserves were being sent forward “like lambs to the slaughter” while more experienced troops were working to dig in more defensive lines.

An orderly withdrawal could be a challenge for the Russians, who use deception to cover up their movements. Heavy artillery barrages are needed to control communications and suppress Ukrainian advances.

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But Hodges said Ukrainian forces could face major obstacles in taking Kherson, including booby traps and concentrated Russian artillery and rocket fire from the east bank.

On Friday, as both sides’ artillery barrages continued, Oleh’s 100-man force took advantage of the unusually mild weather, cleaning weapons and setting up in bunkers with heat insulation on the floors and trenches covered with earth and logs. Ovens.

The force, which consists of six armored vehicles, took its position after Ukrainian forces drove Russian troops back to the border of Kherson and Mykolaiv province.

Oleh said the Russians were running short of ice on the Dnipro, which could block ferry service in January.

Impatient to push against the enemy’s weak points, he could cause panic among the reserve forces and divert them.

“If we don’t attack, they will just sit there,” he said. “It’s good for us because the motivators are panicking. Panic is contagious like a disease.”

Additional reporting by Phil Stewart and Steve Holland in Washington. Edited by Mike Collett-White and Daniel Wallis.

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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