The Kherson Counter-Offensive has been so much talked about in recent weeks as to have acquired the resonance of an historical conflict that has already taken place. Now, at last, it is a reality. Its eventual purpose is to retake Kherson, the only Ukrainian provincial capital in Russian hands and the gateway to Odesa, representing the danger of Russia converting Ukraine into a land-locked country. A further motive is to show the West that its military support is a worthwhile investment, as we enter a winter of fuel poverty, by gaining a significant victory.
Ukraine has been exceptionally successful in keeping its movements and objectives secret. One Western commentator this week remarked ruefully that we know more about the Russians’ dispositions than the Ukrainians’. So, piecing together information from a variety of open sources to try to get an overall picture of events carries a large caveat; but, so far as can be ascertained, the situation is as follows.
Ukraine opened its counter-offensive with a three-pronged attack: the southernmost from Mikolaiv directly towards Kherson city; the second in the rural north-west; and the third from the north. These two latter attacks appear to have converged, trapping enemy units and gaining the surrender of some forces from the Donetsk pseudo-republic, as well as Russian troops. Contrary to the Western media focus on Kherson city, the fiercest fighting has been in the north of the Kherson oblast, in the area furthest removed from the capital, centred on Velyka Kostromka. The very intelligible purpose of this northern offensive is to win a road to Nova Kokhovka, with its dam, controlling the water supply to occupied Crimea.