Kherson fightback sees Ukraine retake 29 towns

Published by The Daily Mail (7th October, 2022)

Ukraine says it has recaptured 29 towns and villages in the south of the country over the past week after its forces broke through Russian lines, sweeping aside some of Moscow’s strongest troops in another rapid advance.

The counter-offensive in Kherson, which follows a series of dramatic advances 200 miles along the frontline in the country’s north-east, is a fresh humiliation for Vladimir Putin and his crumbling invasion.

In a rare public rebuke of the Kremlin’s top brass, a Russian-installed official in the region poured scorn on Moscow’s generals and suggested defence minister Sergei Shoigu – one of Putin’s closest allies – should shoot himself.

Kirill Stremousov, a thuggish anti-vaccination blogger who was appointed deputy head of the annexed region, attacked the ‘ministers, generals, corrupt looters and other various scum’ in the defence ministry who were letting down their ‘heroes’ on the frontline.

He praised hardline Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a cheerleader for the war who has condemned military failings, and demanded ‘more drastic measures’ such as ‘use of low-yield nuclear weapons’. Putin has promoted Kadyrov to colonel-general.

One Ukrainian official claims Chechen units are being ordered to fire on retreating Russian forces – a chilling echo, if confirmed, of infamous Soviet tactics used by Joseph Stalin in the Second World War.

Videos on social media yesterday showed a Russian tank crew surrendering in Kherson and Ukrainians triumphantly towing captured military vehicles. In their chaotic retreat in the east last month, Moscow forces left behind hundreds of pieces of armour.

Ukrainian forces have swept forward at least 12 miles along the western bank of the Dnipro river, having blown up key bridges to block supplies and thwart escape – and are trying to trap enemy forces in a bold pincer movement.

Natalia Humeniuk, a military spokesman, said Kyiv troops had liberated more than 150 square miles and were ‘moving forward’ in several directions.

She added that they were already confronting conscripts rounded up in Putin’s panicked recent mobilisation, which has seen up to a million men flee Russia. ‘They are not very well prepared and are used more as cannon fodder,’ she said.

The counter-attack against the Russian troops, who have been pinned down for weeks under heavy bombardment and left struggling to replenish food, fuel and ammunition, is based on plans honed in the summer with American and British advisers.

But after struggling to advance for weeks, there are suspicions the Russian forces may be withdrawing to dig in around the city of Kherson.

Such is the strategic importance of Kherson, which supplies water to Crimea and is the gateway to Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, Putin reportedly ordered generals to despatch the best surviving troops from their degraded forces to defend the region.

Analysts believe Ukraine is pushing forward on two fronts towards Beryslav, a city on the banks of the Dnipro about 30 miles south of settlements retaken in recent days. It is hoped this will slice the Russian forces in half and trap several thousand troops.

‘If Ukraine reaches Berislav from two sides, they can envelop Russia’s forces,’ said Konrad Muzyka, a Polish defence expert. ‘They would like the Russians to leave without fighting, so they are trying to create the conditions for them to withdraw to enable them to protect cities from the terrible destruction seen in Mariupol.’

Pressure is growing on Putin after he declared Russia’s illegal annexation of Kherson and three other occupied regions following last month’s sham referendums, only to see his spluttering military machine forced into retreat.

According to Ukrainian figures, Moscow has lost 61,330 troops along with 2,449 tanks and 266 military jets. Ukrainian soldiers admit they are sickened by the slaughter in battles against poorly trained and ill-equipped conscripts sent to the frontline.

‘I have never seen so many dead, soon-to-be-dead and wounded people in my life,’ said one fighter.

Yesterday three people were killed in missile strikes in Zaporizhzhia, the only capital of the annexed regions still in Ukrainian hands. There are fears the attack heralds a Russian onslaught on the city.

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