the battle of the bridges, key to the Kherson counter-offensive

11:10 pm, July 30, 2022, amended at 1:52 pm, July 31, 2022

The young woman finally dared to believe it. For the first time in five months, Lilya waited for Ukrainian soldiers to arrive in the streets of her town. The first major locality captured by the Russians at the beginning of March, Kherson is at the center of a counter-offensive by kyiv forces. “For five months, we were constantly told about the liberation of the city, we no longer believed it; this time we have hope”, Lilya explained on the phone. This pregnant mother will not give her name to avoid reprisals from the Russians occupying her town.

On Saturday, the Antonovsky railway bridge, which spans the Dnieper outside Kherson, was targeted by the Ukrainians with long-range missiles supplied by the West, including the famous Himars, American multiple rocket launchers mounted on trucks. Rail traffic was now cut off, preventing the supply by train of the Russian troops stationed on the west bank of the river, in the front line of the southern front. “We are very happy, Lily continued. The Russians used this bridge instead for cars, which were damaged. » The second Antonovsky bridge, intended for vehicles, has been damaged by several strikes in the past two weeks. The Russians have since reportedly built pontoon bridges and a ferry system.

(The JDD)

Access to the Black Sea is prohibited

In southern Ukraine, the Kherson region, which is largely occupied by forces from Moscow, is strategic. “This is a bridge for Russians if they plan to go to Odessa or the center of the country”, analyzes former colonel Michel Goya, military historian. Taking Odessa would deprive the country of its vital access to the Black Sea.

If the Ukrainians push the Russians back beyond the Dnieper, it will be almost impossible for them to cross it again

In the agricultural region of Kherson, with flat fields stretching as far as the eye could see, the main obstacle for the troops was the Dnieper, a river about 300 meters wide. A river that divides the country and the region. Here, near its mouth, as the currents are strong in places, there are few bridges to cross it, hence their importance for both armies. “If the Ukrainians push the Russians back beyond the Dnieper, it will be almost impossible for them to cross it again, predicted by Michel Goya. Thanks to their many rocket launchers, Himars or M270 type, the Ukrainians can attack more inside the zone held by the Russians, including Crimea. Ukrainian territory annexed by Moscow in 2014.

Nibbling land

At the moment, even the adviser to the head of the Ukrainian regional military administration in Kherson, Sergiy Khlan, said on Sunday that the Ukrainian army had passed. “from a defensive phase to a counter-offensive”, it seems like it never started. One thing is for sure, kyiv has increased its targeted strikes on fuel and ammunition depots, Russian military positions. “On July 10, they targeted a Russian military post, Lilya was happy. The strike was so timely that my old elementary school across Pestelya Street was unscathed. »

As the young woman spoke, the sound of an explosion interrupted her. “There are strikes every day, he explained. Sometimes it is difficult to know if they touched Kherson or if they left the city for the Ukrainians. » But this Thursday evening, despite the night, Lilya’s husband believed that he saw smoke rising above the village of Chornobaivka, a few kilometers from their home, north of the city, where there are Russians. Their positions have been targeted several times by the Ukrainians. As they hold Nova Kakhovka, about sixty kilometers to the northeast, where there is a strategic bridge over the Dnieper and a reservoir feeding the Crimean Canal, intended for the supply of fresh water to the peninsula attached.

“Kherson region will definitely be liberated in September”, Sergiy Khlan predicted on Sunday in his television interview. “It will be very complicated for the Ukrainians, Michel Goya’s anger. Unless the Russians collapse, or if they decide to withdraw because they are heavily harassed and cut off from their logistics thanks to the massive artillery approach of the Ukrainian side. But this strategy is random. » For the military expert, it is more likely that the Ukrainians are gradually gaining ground: “I see no other possibility than to make small attacks to advance and hope to reach the Dnieper. But it will take time. »

Kherson, that would be another story

And after that? Lilya’s hope these days is tempered by worry about the future. Like many observers, he is convinced that, when the Ukrainians surround the locality, they will not aim blindly, as the Russians do, without hesitating to destroy the villages to seize them. But the troops from Moscow? “I want them to leave the city like they left Serpents’ Island”, dreams Anna, a friend of Lilya. Anna fled Kherson a month ago to seek refuge in Odessa, but her mind still wandered through the streets of the busy city as she worried about Lilya. Starting in July, “as a sign of goodwill”the Russian army quietly withdrew from Serpents’ Island, a strategic territory in the northwest of the Black Sea.

If forced to retreat, they may practice a scorched earth policy

Kherson will be another story. Taken for a long time, the region will certainly not be released easily as Moscow puts Russian officials in the administration. The hrivna, the Ukrainian currency, is increasingly being replaced by the ruble, and a referendum on the region’s membership in Russia is said to be in the offing. “If they are forced to retreat, fear Anna, they can practice a scorched earth policy. »

In the meantime, the inhabitants of Kherson organized themselves to supply themselves with vegetables and dairy products that came from the south, on the other side of the Dnieper, and that could no longer pass through the Antonovsky bridge. “We will pass, Lilya promised. The Nova Kakhovka bridge was not badly damaged, and private boats were ready to carry goods. »

The ICRC requested access to Olenivka prison

Two days after the attack targeting the prison in Olenivka, in the separatist region of Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, the International Red Cross asked to go there to “to ensure that the injured receive essential care and that the bodies of those who lost their lives are treated with dignity”. At least 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war were killed in an undeclared strike overnight from Thursday to Friday. kyiv accused Moscow of committing a “deliberate war crime”.

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