Member of the international editorial board of Aura GuerinBBC News (Krivy Rych, Ukraine)
Natalia, 50,’s face lit up as she remembered the moment of release. This was the time when the hated occupiers left the village of Nowowoznesenski in Kherson, southern Ukraine.
Until March 29, when Russian soldiers arrived in her village, Natalia lived quietly and peacefully, cultivating. Russian soldiers stole everything they didn’t destroy. Forks, spoons and even shoes worn by retirees.
“They were bad guys.” Natalia spoke, rubbing her hands together as if reliving the trauma.
Freedom finally arrived on September 2.
“We were in the basement when the Ukrainian army arrived.
“When they asked me in Ukrainian: ‘Is anyone alive?’ I knew it was our army. Compared to the fascists (that’s what Natalia called the Russians), they were really cool and beautiful.”
“I didn’t even know if I should hug him or hold his hand. I felt so happy when I touched him.”
After months of deadlocked war, Ukraine and Russia now face a new reality. The war, the biggest conflict in Europe since World War II, suddenly began to stir.
The Ukrainian army advanced and the Russian army was forced to withdraw from the strategically important Kharkiv in the eastern part of the country. Kupyansk, an important supply base, and Izyum, the starting point of the attack, are lost.
“The Russian army is in a hurry to become famous as the fastest army in the world,” Ukrainian President Andriy Yermak wrote on Twitter.
Social media has been flooded with images of abandoned and destroyed Russian strongholds and Ukrainian forces raising the flag over liberated areas.
The speed and scale of the counterattack surprised many Ukrainians, not just the occupiers. “Shocked, in a good way,” said my Ukrainian colleague.
“I needed a big win to get me back on track,” said the colleague.
“And in Kharkiv there seems to be a domino effect. But Russia still has its weapons, its troops, it controls a lot of territory. Ukrainians still don’t understand what their neighbors are like. But I’m not so scared than I used to be, and I’m more confident than before.”
This “miracle” is the result of a large amount of weapons supplied by foreign countries, such as multiple long-range rocket systems, and secret information obtained by foreign governments through intelligence activities.
Moreover, Ukraine appears to have once again thwarted Russia by circulating reports that it would launch a counter-offensive in the southern province of Kherson.
The Russian government took advantage of this “intelligence” and sent troops to Kherson. Because of this, he seems to have endangered his own troops in Kharkiv.
Western military experts say the counter-offensive showed that Ukraine can lose to Russia on the battlefield.
Professor Michael Clarke, former director of the Royal Institute for Defense and Security Studies (RUSI), said: “We see the Russian military not only outnumbered but also defeated”, adding that he it was a “first turn”. seeing that it would be
Moreover, the Ukrainian military declared on the morning of the 11th that the area was indeed 3,000 square kilometers.
Yet Russian forces still control about a fifth of Ukraine. This includes Kherson, the capital of the southern province of Kherson. Kherson, located just north of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, was the first place to fall to Russia during the last invasion.
We were able to get in touch with a woman who still lives in Kherson. According to the woman, who will remain anonymous for the woman’s safety, Russian soldiers nowadays try to keep their breath as low as possible.
“The Russian military seems to have calmed down a bit in the past few days,” the woman said.
“I don’t see them in cafes or restaurants anymore. I think it would be very dangerous if street fights started, but I would be in the basement for a few days or even weeks. I would like to thank the Ukrainian army for having waited here, I want to see the victory
Activists who continue to resist Russia in the city of Kherson also hope for victory. These people collect information, such as the location of Russian troops, and pass it on to the Ukrainian military.
Anonymous activists said they were targeted.
“The Russian side is trying to find out where the photos were taken.”
“Apartments near suitable locations have been looted en masse. Twice in the past week people have been brutally pulled off the streets.”
Still, news from the front lines offers hope, the activist said.
“We are all very encouraged by the progress made in Kharkiv. We hope it will be our turn next.”
The battle of Kherson will eventually become a decisive battle. But the progress made so far has brought catharsis to Ukraine and relief to Western countries that support it. Retaining the territories taken back from Russia could contribute to reversing the course of the conflict.
On the other hand, no one expects Russian President Vladimir Putin to give up. Regarding Ukraine, Putin is preparing to play the long game (to the point of paranoia).
Nevertheless, the Russian front completely collapsed in places and the troops fled. It’s not just a defeat. Humiliation.
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