The Russian army is forced to retreat under the pressure of the Ukrainian military
The long-awaited AFU counteroffensive in Kherson region seems to have begun. The Ukrainian soldiers have smashed a number of important facilities and are also controlling all the bridges over the Dnieper River through heavy fire. The occupiers are suffering from losses and extremely constrained logistics, which is having a significant impact on their morale. The mood among Russian fighters and local collaborators is close to panic. Apostrof’s article explains whether to expect Ukrainian troops to reach Kherson in the near future.
On Monday, August 29, it became known that the Ukrainian armed forces broke through the first line of defense of the Russian occupation contingent in Kherson region, launching counteroffensives in many directions in the south of the country.
Ukrainian defenders knocked out the 109th regiment of militants of the so-called “DPR” from their positions, while Russian paratroopers fled after them. According to sources in the defence ministry, we are talking about the launch of a large-scale offensive by the Ukrainian army in several directions at once.
President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office has asked journalists and politicians not to create unhealthy hype around this topic.
“Once again, the main thing is not to make super-sensational statements before official statements… I also ask journalists today and in the following days to check especially carefully the sources of information and the expertise of specific speakers on the topic. The desire to demonstrate their “knowledge”, their involvement in “insider information” and “hype” on the “situation” is natural for any information space. But war is not content. Let’s filter the information and work professionally out of respect for Ukrainian defenders,” an advisor to the head of the President office, Mykhaylo Podolyak, urged.
Nataliya Humenyuk, head of the Joint Press Centre of the South Operational Command, also urged fellow citizens to be patient, reminding them that the military operation needs silence.
Even before representatives of the authorities made such appeals, most of the experts tried to comment cautiously on the course of hostilities in the south.
“The occupiers in Kherson region have found themselves in the middle of nowhere. The top occupation functionaries have left Kherson in order to be as far away from the front lines as possible…Now the most important thing is to let our military do their job well. They themselves know very well where to go next. We have seen how many troops the Russian Federation has brought in there, including paratroopers and marines. Cautious assessments of the situation, among other things, are based on evidence that the occupiers are also striking back, actively entrenching themselves and building defence facilities,” says Ivan Stupak, an expert on special services at the Ukrainian Institute of the Future.
“There Will Be No Referendums”
Judging by the fact that the Russian army is drowning in Donbass and losing positions in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions (including due to the effective operation of HIMARS systems), the Kremlin occupiers will have to forget that they were planning to hold some kind of “referendums” there.
“The Kremlin overestimated the number of lovers of the “Russian World” in Ukraine as a whole and in the southern regions in particular. In addition, the occupiers initially had no specific plan regarding the goals of the invasion. Today they are talking about “referendums”. Tomorrow they will come up with another so-called procedure, the ultimate goal of which is to paint a picture in front of Russian TV viewers justifying the protracted war with Ukraine. A dozen of local collaborators and a group of artists imported from Russia are quite enough for such a purpose,” the political expert and head of the Agency for Development of the Azov Sea area Konstantin Batozsky told Apostrof.
It is reported that “political technologists” from the pool of Putin’s “cook” Evgeny Prigozhin are engaged in preparations for the “referendum” in occupied areas of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. But it all has reduced to one thing – they simply use the Kremlin budget to create propaganda editorial offices and a kind of social movements in support of the occupation out of subservient budget workers and other socially dependent population groups.
“Tales of the occupants that they have 95% readiness for a “referendum” in Kherson region and part of Zaporizhzhia region are a bluff. They have not even started preparations there, as opposed to the isolated districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The “referendum” in Kherson region is an information special operation to put pressure on President Zelensky’s office, so that Bankova Str agrees to the Kremlin’s conditions for “negotiations”, otherwise Moscow will “bite off” even more territory. I repeat, all of this is lies and manipulation,” the head of the Institute for Strategic Studies and Security Pavel Lysyansky said in a conversation with Apostrof.
The Unenviable Fate of the Collaborators
The organizing and holding of “referendums” in the Ukrainian south is made more difficult not only by pressure from the Ukrainian armed forces, but also by a powerful resistance movement. Not a single Gauleiter or collaborator, including minor “officials”, feels safe in Kherson and the occupied part of Zaporizhzhia region. The occupiers cannot guarantee their safety.
“A policeman from occupied Crimea or the Russian Federation who agrees to a ‘business trip’ to Kherson region receives three salaries. But this is still not enough. The occupation administration needs locals to agree to join the “officials” as well, but few are willing. First, the level of loyalty among locals to the Russians is extremely low. People see what the occupiers are doing. Secondly, those who might agree are under pressure from the “partisan factor”. One’s own life is more expensive than any “positions” of the occupants,” added Pavel Lysyansky.
Literally on the day of the beginning of active operations near Kherson, it became known about the liquidation of a known collaborator – former “Servants of the People” MP Oleksiy Kovalyov. Although there is a version that he, being an “agrarian magnate”, could have become a victim of gang shootings over the sale of grain and vegetables stolen from local farmers.
In any case, the occupants themselves feel at ease in the criminal chaos that they themselves have created. According to Pavel Lysyansky, the Russian command, realizing all the risks of being in Kherson, is currently strengthening its base in Nova Kakhovka. It is not yet clear exactly for what purpose the Russians are doing this, or whether the Russians are considering withdrawing completely from Kherson as part of another “goodwill gesture”.
Kherson Region – the Gateway to Crimea
In any case, leaving even half of the territory of Kherson region (even if the occupants transfer their forces to Donbas or towards Odesa) is extremely undesirable for the Kremlin in view of the growing threats to the occupation base in Crimea. In such a case, the explosions and “fireworks” on the peninsula would become even more numerous, which would not only significantly affect the fighting spirit (which is already low) of the Russian army, but would also completely balance the sentiments among the Crimean collaborators.
“After the liberation of Kherson oblast, the position of the collaborators in Crimea and the Russian functionaries who arrived will become even more shaky. We can already see fear in their eyes and a lack of the aggressive courage and pathos that was observed at the beginning of the invasion. Many prominent collaborators are trying to avoid making public statements on the “special operation”. The Kremlin sees this fear and is trying to curb it through bans on reporting bombings at occupation bases and increased propaganda in educational institutions and labour collectives,” says Eskender Bariev, head of the Crimean Tatar Resource Centre.
The battle for Kherson region will not be easy, because the political price of such a defeat for the Kremlin will be too high. If the Russians are forced out of Kherson, they will try to entrench themselves in Nova Kakhovka, to which Moscow will cling until the very last moment in order to supply water to the Crimea. However, given the “third-rate” quality of the Russian army, as well as low morale, their chances of holding on in the south are decreasing day by day.