The Russian army chose to fortify behind the Dnipro River and blow up a bridge so that the Ukrainians would not chase them
The “decisive battle”, this is how the military confrontation in Kherson was called between the Russian forces and their Ukrainian counterpart, but the latter’s recovery of the city does not necessarily mean the end of the war and the beginning of the withdrawal of the Russians from the entire lands that they annexed to them after popular referendums that were not recognized by most countries of the world.
However, the entry of the Ukrainian army into the city of Kherson after the organized withdrawal of the Russian forces from it is considered a strategic victory that cannot be underestimated, although the possibility of the Russians returning to control the city again is not excluded.
Kherson is the first capital of a province controlled by Russian forces at the beginning of the war last February, and the last.
Its strategic importance lies in the fact that it is the northern gateway to Crimea, which Russia annexed to it in 2014, and by controlling it and parts of Zaporizhia Province (without the provincial center), Crimea became connected by land to the separatist provinces of Donyatsk and Luhansk, which also recently joined Russia.
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But more importantly, Kherson is the source of fresh water for Crimea, which lacks sufficient potable groundwater.
From Kherson, Crimea was supplied with water and electricity, so the Russian forces were keen to control the water source in this city since the beginning of their military operation.
The source of the waters of the Crimean peninsula is the Nova Kakhovka Dam on the Dnipro River, from which a small channel was built through which the waters of the dam crossed towards the Crimean peninsula, and whoever controls the dam controls the water tap towards the latter.
Why did the Russians withdraw?
After the Ukrainian army achieved important victories on the Kharkiv front (east) and liberated most of its cities and towns, it threw its weight on the Kherson front in the south, benefiting from its numerical superiority, and even in the type of weapons supplied by the United States and its Western allies.
Two months ago, the Ukrainian army advanced towards Kherson from three eastern, northern and western fronts, and the Himars missiles, which have a range of more than 60 km, were the secret word for the victory that was achieved in the first days of the battle.
The fundamental weakness of the Russian forces stationed in Kherson was the Nova Kakhovka Dam. If the Ukrainian army succeeded in destroying it, this would lead to flooding the city and the soldiers’ camps on both banks of the river.
But more dangerous than that, the collapse of the dam will isolate the Russian forces in the north of the Dnipro River, and make them surrounded by the Ukrainian forces to the east, west and north, and from the river to the south, which will lead to cutting off supplies to them and thousands of Russian soldiers will be either captured, killed or wounded.
The Ukrainian army actually began bombing the “Nova Kakhovka” dam with Himars missiles, in the first days of November, according to the pro-Moscow local authorities, who spoke of damage to parts of the dam, although the Ukrainian side denied this, and even warned that Russian forces may resort to blowing it up.
In addition, the Ukrainian army’s targeting of the Russian forces’ supply lines in northern Kherson, with HIMARS missiles, weakened its defense capabilities.
And videos appeared, which could not be verified, of Russian soldiers on the fronts, complaining about the lack of supplies and ammunition.
The Russian army lost about 100,000 soldiers killed or wounded in less than 9 months of fighting in Ukraine, according to the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley.
These human losses exceed the number lost by the Soviet army during the ten years of the war in Afghanistan (1979-1989), which exceeded 15,000 dead, according to media sources.
The situation was difficult for the Russian forces north of the Dnipro River, and although they were able to slow down the progress of the Ukrainian forces in recent days, after they intensified the use of Iranian suicide drones, their leaders faced painful choices.
Either fighting in open areas in harsh conditions, and facing the possibility of losing 30,000 fighters and 5,000 vehicles on the northern bank of the Dnipro River, if the Nova Kakhovka dam is destroyed, and supply lines are cut off.
Or, as a second option, withdraw the forces behind the Dnipro River, which is known for its depth and abundance of water, especially in winter, and reorganize the forces and supply lines, and wait for the arrival of reinforcements, especially after recruiting 300,000 reserve forces.
The bitter option was to withdraw, but it was the loss of thousands of soldiers in a losing battle, so Kherson was evacuated from civilians, then the Russian forces withdrew gradually, while continuing to fight on the front lines to avoid massive losses during the major withdrawal.
Long winter war
Having completed their withdrawal, the Russian forces destroyed the Anthony Visky Bridge on the Dnipro River, and part of the Mova-Kakhovka Dam Bridge, to prevent the Ukrainian forces from pursuing them to the south bank of the river.
This shows that the Russian forces will take a defensive position, and will not seek to recapture Kherson in the next few weeks or months.
The Russian forces are trying to look for natural obstacles to take cover, to take strong defensive fortifications to regroup, to wait for reinforcements to arrive, and to address their mistakes, especially the supply lines, which are still the fundamental weakness they suffer from.
And what confirms that the Russians do not intend to abandon Kherson despite their withdrawal from it, said Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of the National Security Council, that “Russia is the one that protects its citizens, and it is the one that restores Russian lands and not the other way around,” stressing that the provinces of Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhia are within his country’s territory.
This means freezing the Kherson front, during the next stage, and opening other fronts in Zaporozhye province, which is divided between the two parties, as well as the Lugansk and Donyatsk fronts, the latter of which is witnessing fierce battles in the vicinity of the city of Bakhmut and nearby towns.
Russia is preparing for a long-term war, similar to the one waged by the Soviet Union against Finland in 1939, and despite its defeat in the first round of the war due to winter and snow, it won in the end after annexing large parts