“Violent battles” have escalated into “street fighting” between Ukrainian and Russian forces in southern Ukraine, as Kyiv forces launch a counter-attack with the aim of recapturing the occupied city of Kherson from the Russians, which experts describe as a turning point in the course of the war.
The town of Berezhnhovat, located 70 kilometers north of Kherson, witnessed continuous passage of Ukrainian armored vehicles, while heavy artillery fire echoed in the surrounding areas, according to “AFP”.
The Ukrainian presidency announced that “the Ukrainian armed forces launched offensive operations in different directions,” stressing that they destroyed “a number of ammunition depots” and “all the main bridges” that allow vehicles to cross the Dnieper River that waters this part of Ukraine.
A video clip circulated on social media, Tuesday, and verified by the “Washington Post” newspaper, showed smoke and gunfire in Kherson.
Videos showed damage to infrastructure and residential life in the city, including smoke near the strategic “Antonovsky Bridge”.
Other clips showed the destruction of “a market,” as well as corpses and burned military vehicles near the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station, according to the Washington Post.
Kherson, with a pre-war population of 280,000, is the first major Ukrainian city to fall after the Kremlin began its conquest in February.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he wanted to “recapture Kherson, the only regional capital that Russia has occupied since launching its invasion on February 24”.
This Ukrainian attack comes to cut off supplies from Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and the counterattack aims mainly to restore Kherson, local officials confirmed to AFP.
Taking back Kherson would give Ukraine a gateway to launch attacks on Crimea, which Russia seized in 2014, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
The recapture of Kherson would be one of Russia’s biggest setbacks since the start of the war and would fuel anger among hardliners in Moscow who believe President Vladimir Putin is “too weak”, according to the British newspaper, The Times.
Ukrainian major gains
Ukrainian forces made “major gains” in two days of fighting in the south, which Russia occupied at the start of its massive invasion of Ukraine, Kyiv’s forces sought to isolate the Russians on the west bank of the Dnipro River in the south by using long-range precision missiles provided by the United States to strike bridges and military installations, according to the newspaper. The Wall Street Journal”.
The Ukrainian forces’ “more gains” would boost national morale and demonstrate the Ukrainian army’s ability to stop the Russians and also reclaim the occupied territories, according to the newspaper.
Commenting on these developments, retired Australian Army General Mick Ryan said: “Not only will this be their first major offensive (Ukrainian forces), but it will be a show to the West that they should continue to support Ukraine to completely drive the Russians off their territory.”
Ukrainian advances will also be crucial to residents of occupied territories who hope Ukraine will liberate their cities, Ryan told the Wall Street Journal.
Ryan spoke of “political dimensions that are no less important than the military dimensions of the attack,” adding, “This will be a difficult battle for the Ukrainians, as it is difficult to coordinate and support offensive operations, compared to defensive operations.”
The former commander of the US Army in Europe, retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, spoke of “the shift in the momentum of the battles in favor of the Ukrainian forces.”
Ukrainian forces succeeded in besieging thousands of Russian troops on the western bank of the Dnipro River, after destroying bridges across the river to prevent any heavy vehicles from crossing.
“They (the Russian forces) were not properly resupplied,” Hodges says, adding, “their chances of getting out of there are not good.”
On the other hand, the former Ukrainian Defense Minister, Andrei Zagorodniuk, downplayed the importance of the ongoing battles since Monday, saying that it is a continuation of the operations that have been taking place for weeks.
He continued, “I can’t say that something has changed dramatically, they are progressing slowly,” adding, “We are destroying their ability to control territory,” according to “The Wall Street Journal.”
A soldier from the National Guard at a checkpoint south of Mykolaiv confirmed that Ukraine fears launching ground attacks because of the “size of Russian forces,” adding that “strikes on the city have escalated in the past two days.”
He said Russian forces were trying to “revenge” the Ukrainians, according to the Wall Street Journal.
On Tuesday, residents of Mykolaiv noted an increase in the number of Russian missile and artillery strikes since the announcement of the Ukrainian counter-offensive.
The Southern Command of the Ukrainian army said that the Russians bombed Mykolaiv, on Monday, with 16 “S-300” missiles, which caused “serious” damage, especially in residential buildings and transport facilities, killing two civilians and wounding 24 others, according to “AFP”.
In the center of Kharkiv, the second city in the northeast of the country, at least five people were killed in Russian bombing, according to “AFP” quoted the mayor and the region’s governor, on Tuesday.
Russia, for its part, said it had repelled Ukrainian “attempts to attack” in the Kherson and Mykolaiv regions in southern Ukraine.
Russia claimed that it repelled the attack and inflicted heavy losses on the Ukrainian army, and also said that a group of “spies and saboteurs” were killed during the fighting.
It was not clear whether Ukrainian forces had entered Kherson or if the fighting in the city’s streets was between Russian forces and pro-Kiev supporters, according to the “Times”.
#turning #point #war #street #fighting #Kherson