key stage The victory of the Ukrainian forces in Kherson is a great step forward but there is still a long way to go before the territory is reconquered
- Russian troops announced on November 9 their withdrawal from the city of Kherson, capital of one of the annexed regions, marking a crushing defeat both military and political for Moscow.
- With the Russian forces entrenched on the other side of the river, on the left bank of the Dnieper, the Ukrainians must now secure the city and rebuild.
- Can they then continue their offensive on the other side against the Russian forces? Elements of answers with Isabelle Dufour, director of strategic studies at Eurocrise, contacted by 20 Minutes.
The emotions of joy of the inhabitants of Kherson, Ukrainian flags in hand, showed to how badly the Russian occupation of the city had been difficult for almost nine months. Upon their arrival, the Ukrainian soldiers were welcomed with flowers and hugs. Even President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the city on Monday, when it was not yet secure, to sing the country’s anthem.
This Ukrainian victory is all the more important because it is one hell of a success. setback for the Russian army. Since September, the latter has been in difficulty; in the face of counter-offensives by Ukrainian forces. With the loss of Kherson, the Russians lose the capital of one of the regions annexed by Moscow in September. The kyiv fighters still have a lot to do, however. do before reclaiming their entire territory. And why not until’` Crimea. It is unclear whether the Ukrainian forces will have the capability to do so, but “they have the will,” 20 Minutes Isabelle Dufour, director of strategic studies at Eurocrise.
A week after his release, where; is Kherson ?
Captured by the Russians on March 2, the city was liberated after the order to evacuate Russian soldiers on November 9. But life has yet to return to normal. The inhabitants sometimes have no more water, no more electricity. “Before fleeing Kherson, the occupants destroyed all essential infrastructure – communication, water supply, heating, electricity,” the President of Ukraine on November 12. It will then be necessary to clear the rubble, rebuild the vital and essential infrastructures such as the evacuation of waste water, the treatment of waste.
The Russians were also able to set traps in their escape to the other side. Dnieper, the river that runs alongside the city. The importance of this city for the Kremlin, due to its key location to connect the Crimea annexed by Russia since 2014 and the Ukrainian port of Odessa with the West, spared him the destruction. But the danger is not completely averted. “There is a risk of sabotage, booby traps and mining” of the city left behind by the Russians, warns Isabelle Dufour.
The national police chief, Igor Klymenko thus alerted townspeople about the presence of explosive devices left behind by Russian forces and called on them to “Move with care” According to him, a policeman was injured during a demining operation in a building with Kherson. “There is a phase of transition between military planning and planning. civil planning,” explains Isabelle Dufour. It’s now up to the Ukrainian civil engineering to start demining, and this can take time, several weeks. But unlike other recent battlefields, here the inhabitants have every interest in help their fighters to unearth the dangers. “The people of Kherson are going to help them. find, report an apartment that served as a base or likely to be trapped,” develops Isabelle Dufour. “They participate in their release,” she sums up.
How can the Ukrainian forces continue the counteroffensive?
After the forced evacuation of more than 70,000 civilians from the city, the Russian army crossed the Dnieper to entrench themselves on the other side; of the river, on the left bank. To continue their breakthrough, the Ukrainian forces will also have to split the river. “But “it may be complicated,” warns Isabelle Dufour. “Bridges and boats have been removed. destroyed, in their flight, the Russians left nothing behind. which could be used to cross,” she says.
Moreover, an assault by water “requires heavy military resources and support while the Russians could hit the Ukrainian forces at the time of the landing, it’s very risky;” , abounds the director of strategic studies at Eurocrise. As much as the Ukrainian forces are not known for their maritime component, nevertheless “the Ukrainians have often surprised us in this war”, she nuances. It then depends on the capabilities of the Ukrainian army but also on the state of the Russian forces opposite.
The other way is encirclement. Instead of crossing, kyiv army fighters could isolate the Russian positions in the Kherson region “which would fall by itself”, analyzes Isabelle Dufour. “The Russians are in a defensive position, it’s easier to control. hold but also easier to hold target,” she stresses. Especially since there are many maneuvers of Russian troops towards Zaporozhye. “They may be reorganizing,” says Isabelle Dufour. And Ukrainian forces could “take advantage of this weak spot,” lead?
The victory at Kherson is all the more striking as the Russian withdrawal is the third in magnitude since the beginning of the invasion on February 24, Russia having had to give up the spring to; take kyiv face to face; the fierce resistance of the Ukrainians, before being driven out of almost all of the country. from the Kharkiv region (north-east) in September. “Only together can we prevail and drive Russia out of Ukraine. We are on the right track,” on November 12, the head of Ukrainian diplomacy, Dmytro Kuleba.
But many battles remain to be fought. carry out. In Bakhmout on the Eastern front, the fighting continues at; rage. Moscow has been trying to conquer this city since the summer. It’s the main battlefield where the Russian army, supported by the men of the paramilitary group Wagner, remains the offensive. However, “Russia is putting a lot of effort into it for little benefit on the ground, they are getting exhausted and even if the Ukrainians are losing some ground there, it’s not not significant,” believes Isabelle Dufour. Especially since a capture of Bakhmout by the Russian army would be a great victory, but not as much as that of the Ukrainians at the end of the war. Kherson, annexed city belonging to the Russian story of victory. And if other capitals of annexed regions, to If Donetsk, Luhansk or Zaporozhye were liberated by Ukrainian forces, “it would be catastrophic” militarily but above all politically for Moscow, continues Isabelle Dufour.
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kyiv has already warned: total victory would only be established the recovery of all of their territory, including Crimea. If it is released, with the Donbass at the East, “it would be the ultimate victory,” according to the director of strategic studies at Eurocrise. It’s a possibility. which is not excluded. Ukrainians are now at a loss; 90 km from the region. “To see if they have the ability, but in any case they have the will, recalls Isabelle Dufour. And that would be the ultimate humiliation.” This will probably require more Western military aid. So if Ukraine manages to cross the Dnieper and sow panic on the side Russian, they could then put all their forces on Crimea.