Ukraine’s advance on Kherson continues, as Russia enters the streets of Mariupol

Ukrainian soldiers search the rubble of a military school hit by Russian rockets on March 18, 2022.

Mariupol has been one of the most horrific places in Ukraine since the start of Putin’s war. Like Kharkiv and Sumy in the north, it suffered from almost continuous shelling, shelling and missile attacks. But where these towns repelled Russian forces from the east and maintained supply lines for food and weapons, Mariupol was encircled soon after the invasion began. Russian forces deliberately destroyed the region’s access to water, gas and electricity. They blocked humanitarian convoys trying to deliver food and medical supplies. And they’ve kept over 300,000 people locked down even as Russia continues to explode.

Now, with more than 80% of Mariupol’s residences damaged or destroyed, and with rescue workers still trying to extract those trapped under the rubble of the theater that Russia deliberately bombarded on Thursday, Russian forces have finally broken through the outer defenses. of Mariupol and the fighting moved to the streets. Ukrainian defenders – despite a shortage of food and ammunition – managed to take out a trio of Russian tanks on Saturday, but with the fighting near the center of the city (and interfering with efforts to save those still under the theatre) , the mayor of Mariupol warned that the city’s remaining defenses could soon collapse.

If that happens, the resistance will certainly continue in the streets choked with debris, but Russia can at least claim that it controls the entire coast of the Sea of ​​Azov, with areas of Donbass connected by a corridor to the Crimea.

Even so, the stability of this corridor is definitely in doubt. As Kos has repeatedly pointed out, in most areas what Russia really controls is a very narrow area around the highways. Maps may show large areas under Russian control, but Russian forces traveling anywhere outside of very tightly defined areas may soon find that coloring territory on the map red does not make it yours in real life. And even those red lines along highways can be quickly erased.

This is currently happening along the road between Mykolaiv and Kherson. Ukrainian forces are advancing from village to village, dislodging Russian troops and reversing a Russian advance that stalled a week ago. These Russian forces will likely fall back on the defenses and additional forces in place at Kherson. Kherson, you may recall, was where Russia struggled to take the first day of the war. Here Kos looks at the situation in Kherson on February 24.

The left bank is on the Kherson side. If Ukraine really holds it, that means the Russians on the other side are either destroyed and/or cut off from their supply lines… there is no other way to cross this great river:

When it became apparent that the bridge was going to collapse, Ukrainian forces returned to Mykolaiv. Now those same units are advancing again and it is the Russians who are retreating. The current front line is back within 20 miles of this bridge which changed hands several times in February.

Coverage of Putin’s invasion has often followed a narrative that suggests “yes, Russian forces may be stuck around kyiv, but they are advancing in the south.” This is no longer true. Russian forces are still at a standstill in the north, but in the south they are retreating. The Ukrainian advances also appear to put an end to stories that Russia is close to encircling, cutting off or defeating Ukrainian forces in the region.

Russia may or may not be on the verge of capturing Mariupol. If that happens, it will no doubt be treated as a victory for their tactic of systematically crushing, starving and murdering civilian populations. But it’s not clear that this is a “victory” outside of Russia, and it’s not certain that it’s a victory that will last for long.

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