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Explainer: Why the Russian withdrawal from Kherson is important for the war in Ukraine

Ukrainian officials said Friday that Ukrainian flags were appearing “at once and everywhere” following Russia’s withdrawal from the southern region of Kherson.

A months-long Ukrainian offensive to recapture the city of Kherson, the only provincial capital under Russian control since the early days of the invasion, is gaining momentum. The fall of the city would be another humiliation for Moscow after a series of battlefield defeats and other setbacks.

Let’s find out what’s going on and why Kherson is an important city for both sides.

Why is the city such an award?

With a pre-war population of 280,000, Kherson is the only provincial capital occupied by Russian forces. The city and surrounding areas fell into Moscow’s hands in the first days of the war as Russian forces launched a swift offensive north from the Crimea, illegally annexed by the Kremlin in 2014.

Its loss hit Ukraine hard, given its location on the Dnipro River near the mouth of the Black Sea and its role as a major industrial center. Since then, Ukrainian Resistance fighters have challenged Russian forces for control of the city by sabotaging and assassinating Moscow-appointed officials.

Kherson is also located at the point where Ukraine can cut off fresh water from the Dnipro to Crimea. After annexing Crimea, Kyiv blocked these vital supplies and Putin said they needed to be restored as one of the reasons he decided to invade Ukraine.

Serhii Kalko shows a house burnt down by Russian soldiers during the occupation of Blahodatne village, recaptured by Ukrainian forces a day earlier, in Ukraine’s Kherson region on Friday. (Valentin Ogilenko/Reuters)

what is happening now?

In the past 24 hours, Ukrainian forces have advanced northwest, west and northeast of the city of Kherson, up to seven kilometers in some areas, according to the War Research Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

“Russia has moved into a more defensible position. Ukraine must decide if, when and how to keep pushing,” said Olga Olikar, director of Europe and Central Asia at the International Crisis Group. said. “But Ukraine seems to be on the brink of recapture…and this is very good news for Mykolaiv, which will be much harder for Russia to shell from now on. This is a serious step forward for Ukraine.”

A spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence service said an eponymous “operation to liberate Kherson” and the surrounding area was underway on Friday, with troops preparing to enter the city.

“But only after an official report by the Chief of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces will it be possible to talk about establishing Ukrainian control over the city,” said Andriy Yusov.

What did the Ukrainian army discover?

Kherson’s Ukrainian-appointed regional official, Serhiy Klan, said that when Russia withdrew its troops from the west bank of the river that divided the region, they left wreckage in its wake and destroyed major structures, including power facilities and bridges. He said he destroyed infrastructure.

“We’re going to have to rebuild everything,” he said at a video briefing on Friday. “They were blowing everything up while they were escaping. [Ukrainian] Forward. “

Khlan advised civilians to stay home and said the humanitarian situation was complex, with power cuts and communications severely restricted.

Evacuees from Kherson walk off a bus after arriving in Dzhankoy, Crimea on Thursday. Russian officials have warned of a major Ukrainian counterattack and have been pushing for the eviction of residents of Kherson in recent days. (Associated Press)

What does the Kremlin say?

The Kremlin remained defiant on Friday, arguing that the development of a battlefield in the Kherson region would never be embarrassing for Putin.

Fearing such a massive Ukrainian counterattack, the Kremlin-installed local government in Kherson reportedly displaced at least 70,000 residents earlier this month.

What does losing Kherson mean for Russia?

A withdrawal from Kherson and other areas west of the Dnipro would dash Russia’s hopes of stepping up its offensive in Mykolaiv and Odesa to cut off Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea. Moscow also hoped to build a land corridor to Moldova’s separatist Transnistria region, home to a major Russian military base.

“The loss of Kherson will shatter all the Kremlin’s dreams of the South,” said Ukrainian military analyst Ole Zdanov. “Kherson is key to the entire southern region, and Ukraine will be able to target an important supply route for the Russian army. Russia will use all means to maintain its control.”

Ukrainian servicemen ride a 2S7 Pion self-propelled gun near the front line in the Kherson region on Wednesday. (Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters)

What does taking Kherson mean for Ukraine?

For Ukraine, occupying Kherson would pave the way for Russia to regain the Zaporizhia region and other areas in the south, eventually pushing it back into Crimea.

Reclaiming control of Kherson also means that Kyiv can cut off water to Crimea again.

“After the deoccupation of Kherson, the Russians will again have problems with fresh water in Crimea,” Zhdanov added.

What do you think of China?

Volodymyr Fesenko, head of the Kyiv-based independent think tank Pentacentre, said gaining control of the Kherson region and other southern regions was a huge achievement for Russia, and its loss would have painful consequences for Putin, both at home and abroad. It pointed out.

“If the Russians leave Kherson, the Kremlin will once again face a wave of fierce criticism from ultra-patriotic circles against the military command and the authorities in general,” said Fesenko, noting that the collapse of the city would boost the morale of the Russian army. and possibly fuel opposition to mobilization efforts.

He also said China and India would see Kherson’s downfall as a sign of a weakened Kremlin.

“Putin will be tarnished not only at home, but also in the eyes of China, which is especially dangerous for the Kremlin,” Fesenko said.

Explainer: Why the Russian withdrawal from Kherson is important for the war in Ukraine

Source link Explainer: Why the Russian withdrawal from Kherson is important for the war in Ukraine

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