Russian and Ukrainian forces fought fiercely around Kherson.
On the banks of the Dnieper River and overlooking the Black Sea coast lies the Ukrainian port city of Kherson – also known as the “Gateway to Crimea”. Because the Ukrainian peninsula, illegally annexed by Russia in 2014, lies less than 100 kilometers southeast of the city of 380,000.
In March, the city fell into Russian hands during the Ukrainian war, in September the entire Kherson region was annexed by Russian President Vladimir Putin (70) along with Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporizhia – and on November 9, the Russian Minister of Defense announced that Sergei Shoigu (67) surprised by withdrawing his units from the city.
In Shoigu’s speech, Shoigu said that the intention was now to concentrate on the left bank of the Dnieper. And you probably won’t give up those positions without a fight. Even as Russian troops retreat from the city itself, they continue to establish themselves in the suburbs of Kherson and consolidate their defenses on the left bank of the Dnieper.
Satellite images show trenches in the Kherson region
Russian troops have spent the past few weeks, long before the withdrawal was announced, fortifying defensive positions on the east bank of the Dnieper – the places where 40,000 troops from the city of Kherson also want to withdraw.
Satellite images shared on Twitter also show Russian troops trying to build a line of defense around Kherson. The Swiss Benjamin Pittet (22) also shares the structure of these ditches and obstacles around the city. According to his analysis, there are three Russian defense lines in and around the city – even on the Black Sea coast, front lines are being strengthened.
Because while the right bank of the Dnieper is returning to the Ukrainian flag town after town and Ukrainian troops are advancing further and further towards the town, Russian troops are preparing to stay on the east bank – a complete loss of the region would be fatal. The Kherson region is the last major section of the “land bridge” from mainland Russia to Crimea that Putin has sought since illegally annexing the peninsula in 2014, according to the Washington Post.
On Thursday, new satellite images show that trenches are already being dug in Crimea. “Russia has restored trenches at the Chonhar checkpoint between Crimea and the Kherson region. New trenches are also being dug,” says Pittet. New trenches are also being dug on the northwest side of the peninsula.
Will Russia return to Kherson?
“If Russia can withdraw its troops without major casualties, it will likely be in a stronger position to hold its existing front lines because it can more easily shift those withdrawals to hold Donbas and Zaporozhye,” said Rob Lee, the State Department’s chief of staff. Policy Research Institute, The Guardian. “That’s why the way the selection is made is key.”
Leonid Slutsky (54), a member of the State Duma, also announced on Telegram on Thursday: “We will return to Kherson.” An ambitious statement – as recapturing the city will be difficult, especially since crossing the Dnieper is hardly possible – the Ukrainian river is too wide and too cold. Because of this, the withdrawal of the Russians will also be difficult. In addition, there can always be delays in battles, as ETH security analyst Niklas Masuhr (29) explains to Blick.
But the Ukrainians also face a problem on the banks of the Dnieper, as buried Russian artillery would complicate their lives, the expert said. “The focus of future Ukrainian counteroffensives would then be more likely along the Zaporozhye-Melitopol axis.” So it seems that Russia wants to “freeze” the front – and use the natural protective wall formed by the Dnieper.