Because the region is of strategic importance for the course of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Ukrainian forces are increasing pressure on Russian military forces in the southern Kherson region that Moscow seized at the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Losing control of the Ukrainian region would be a major setback for President Vladimir Putin.
Here are the reasons why the region is of strategic importance to the course of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Gateway to the Crimea
Kherson Oblast borders Crimea and provides Moscow with a land bridge to the Black Sea peninsula it seized in 2014. Ukraine’s recapture of Kherson Oblast would deprive Moscow of this land corridor. It would also bring Ukrainian long-range artillery closer to Crimea, which Moscow considers vital to its interests.
This Ukrainian peninsula, the annexation of which Putin considers a key achievement of his more than two decades in power, is home to a massive Russian military force and the Black Sea Fleet, which Moscow uses to project power in the Mediterranean and Middle East.
Crimea’s water supply will also be at risk if Ukraine retakes the Kherson region.
After Moscow annexed Crimea, Kyiv blocked the water supply through a canal from the Dnieper River. When Russia seized parts of Kherson Oblast and neighboring Zaporizhia to the east, it moved immediately to unblock the canal to allow water to flow. Russia needs this water for the local population, irrigation of the arid lands of the peninsula and for many military installations.
Russian forces are in the trenches on the right – west – bank of the Dnieper River in the northern part of Kherson region. It is the only place where Russia has a presence on the right bank of the huge river that cuts Ukraine in two.
Ukrainian forces are pounding the bridges over the river to damage Moscow’s supply capability. Losing that side of the river would allow Ukraine to attack Russian supply lines supporting Zaporizhia and seek to recapture the nuclear power plant there, military analysts say.
“The right bank is important for both sides – for (Russia) in order to ensure the stability of the defense in the direction of Zaporizhia, and for (Ukraine) to liberate this direction, to cut off the land corridor to Crimea, water supply to Crimea and regain control of (the nuclear plant),” said Oleh Zhdanov, a military analyst.
The city of Kherson is to date the only regional capital that has been captured by Russian forces since the February 24 invasion. Its loss would therefore be a significant symbolic blow to the Kremlin and would show that Russia is – at present – unable to advance towards the cities of Mykolayiv and Odessa, which Moscow has sought to capture, said Oleksandr Musiyenko, a military analyst.
“It is clear that the loss of the Kherson and the Kherson bridgehead will have consequences for Russia’s image and will have a negative impact inside Russia,” he said.
Control in the Black Sea
The region of Kherson, which had – before the war – a population of over 1 million, is located on the Black Sea. Recapturing it would help Kyiv regain control of some coastlines in a sea that is a critical artery for its food exports to foreign markets.
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