From Jamie Peipon: Kherson is Ukraine. This has truly been a historic day as the Ukrainian armed forces raised the Ukrainian flag in almost every town on the right bank of the Dnipro River around Kherson. They also made their way to the very center of Kherson – the only oblast capital city that russia had been able to occupy over the course of this invasion.
I wrote two days ago about how I thought Ukraine would likely meet some resistance even after russia announced the withdrawal. I was right… but it wasn’t at all the resistance I expected. It appears there was basically zero resistance from russia, but progress was happily slowed by Ukrainians flooding the streets to greet their countrymen and liberators.
You can see some screen shots from videos where it looks like the Beatles have rolled into town. The scenes have been amazing: grown men weeping as they thank the soldiers, disbelief… joy… smiles… tears… lots of “we knew you’d come”s… and “everything will be OK”s… a whole lot of “Slava Ukrayini!” with a robust response of “Heroyam Slava!”… and every able-bodied babushka in the oblast forcing soldiers out of vehicles to give them flowers and hugs.
The scenes are particularly incredible when you consider that the russian state news agency reported that 87% of these citizens had apparently voted for Kherson to join russia just a few short weeks ago. If I were a betting man, I’d be willing to wager that the russian news agency was not being entirely truthful. But, even news personalities are struggling with how to frame these latest developments. One russian TV host realized out loud that if he said that he supported the decision to withdraw troops from Kherson, that he could go to jail for questioning russia’s territorial integrity… but… if he opposed withdrawing troops from Kherson he could go to jail for discrediting russia’s armed forces. It is a sad state of affairs for a journalist to come to the realization that free speech is no longer permitted live on air.
The reports last night were that Ukraine was pounding the retreating forces with artillery non-stop. Today, there are surprisingly few photos and videos of destroyed russian equipment or of soldiers surrendering. There could be good reasons for this. It is possible that most of that was happening very close to the river as russians were trying to cross, but it would have been very foolish for anybody to go and try to take pictures of all that was happening. It also is possible that russia had evacuated more people and equipment than most analysts expected. As always, we will likely have a better idea in a few days.
A few things to consider:
The occupiers did indeed announce a retreat, but there was a good reason for it. It was hardly as if they had a choice. This happened because Ukraine had patiently and strategically applied pressure all across the southern front and prevented those soldiers from resupplying. They took back a huge swath of land today with very minimal losses. None if that is an accident. Ukraine’s armed forces have been wise beyond their years and continue to impress military experts all over the world.
Next, the size of the front in the south has shrunk significantly now that there is the natural barrier of the Dnipro River between the two armies. The bridges that have been destroyed in that area prevent russia from coming back easily, and they aren’t particularly important to Ukraine at the moment. Ukrainians can cross the Dnipro in uncontested area just further north and start working down the eastern side. The fact that Ukraine will likely be able to divert a large number of forces to other fronts. This will likely mean that significant reshaping of other front lines is likely in store over the coming weeks.
Lastly, HIMARS will now be ever closer to Crimea. As the front line jumps south, the reach of Ukraine’s artillery jumps with it. This means that more russians in Crimea will be feeling the pressure to evacuate. Their weapons stockpiles also have to shift further south.
There are lots of things to consider… but tonight, Ukraine celebrates. There is no electricity, gas, or water in Kherson; but the freed citizens there have never felt better. They were under occupation since the first days of the invasion. And now they’re free again. Tonight, they’re lighting bonfires in the streets, dancing, and singing late into the night.
“He redeems my soul in safety
from the battle that I wage,
for many are arrayed against me.”