“From snow to mosquitoes we have been here for five months” –

from Lorenzo Cremonesi

The only clashes between the two armies with drones and artillery

PERVOMAISKE (Fronte di Kherson)
Little moves in the trenches of the southern sector. Despite President Volodymyr Zelensky’s loud announcements of a “quick counter-offensive” to recapture Kherson and despite Russian unsuccessful attempts to resume the advance towards Odessa, this remains a kind of drôle de guerre. The 27-year-old Lieutenant Luka of the 36th Mechanized Brigade testifies in front of us: “It was still winter in early March, with bare trees, frost in the bones and gray fields, when our units were sent here to stop Vladimir’s armored vehicles. Putin. It’s midsummer now, it’s freaking hot, our nights are infested with mosquitoes, the trees are green and the cornfields gilded, ready for threshing, catch fire like matches when grenades explode. But we are still here, almost stationary, between these villages more and more destroyed by bombs and the same hills that are not very steep», He tells us after a mad ride with his jeep on bumpy sheep tracks to avoid being targeted by snipers.

We returned here a little over a month after the last time to try to verify the state of the campaign that would like to mark the Ukrainian recovery. And we ran into a war of position made up of duels between drones, night sorties with a few tanks and small patrols, aerial battles and above all remote bombing. The Ukrainians’ progress has been a maximum of a few dozen kilometers: Kherson remains about twenty from their most advanced positions. At best, it is possible to say that the initiatives on the southern front have forced the Russians to divert men and vehicles from the Donbass. But the clash continues with victims and damage: we can testify from the field. Luka and his men had promised us that we could visit Kyselinka, one of the fifty or so villages liberated in the last month (mostly tiny clusters of a few houses). “We took it back two weeks ago, our trenches are in the western suburbs, the Russians are out and the center has become no man’s land,” he explained. But when we arrived among the buildings of Pervomaiske, two kilometers from the first line, the commands reported via radio that the Russian air force had risen. We heard some loud explosions not too far away. So, the Ukrainian fighters took off. “We must immediately seek shelter,” explained the lieutenant, heading among the gutted houses. We went down to the cellars with some civilians. “Before the war we were more than 5,000 inhabitants, now there are just 300 left, almost all elderly farmers”, says Vitaly, a 43-year-old who once worked in a factory and now cultivates two vineyards.

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In a moment of calm we move quickly to the nearby town of Bilosirka. And here an unusual scenario is offered. The village is basically arranged on two parallel streets. On the first, many houses appear damaged, if not completely destroyed by Russian bombs. But on the second, almost no damage is visible. The reason? “The part of the village that sympathizes with the Russians was not affected”, responds Tatiana Koroll, a 39-year-old who has remained with her husband and two daughters, who is siding with the Ukrainians. Luka and her avoid going the other way, indeed, they stay away from it. “Collaborators could report the presence of foreign journalists and we would risk being targeted,” they say.

Crouched in a trench at a checkpoint surrounded by burnt wheat fields we can finally take stock of the situation with some senior officers. “The arrival of Western heavy weapons, especially the American Himars rocket launchers, which hit with precision over 80 kilometers away, is really making a difference.. We have hit the three bridges over the Dnieper River and now the Russians are having enormous difficulty sending ammunition to their Kherson artillery. We see it in our daily life, for the first time the Russians are firing much less, they are saving ammunition. But the Himars are only 20, too few, we had asked for at least 50: these help defend us, but do not provide sufficient cover for a large-scale attack»They say.

But Kiev is in a hurry. Kherson is the only province west of the Dnieper that the Russians managed to occupy in the first weeks of the war. And now Putin is imposing on you his project of “Russification” of Ukraine in forced stages. Already local banks only accept rubles instead of hryvnia; the internet, media and telephone network are now Moscow’s monopoly; large billboards hanging in the streets guarantee that “mother Russia” is back to stay. Russian agents arrest old local political leaders and persecute any dissent. A third of the original 300,000 inhabitants remain in the city of Kherson. The highlight should be the referendum, which Putin would like as early as mid-September to certify full annexation. “A farce, which no democratic country will be able to accept” reply the Ukrainians. Meanwhile, partisan guerrilla actions intensify, together with the targeted killings of collaborators. Yesterday a drone-killer seriously injured Vladimir Saldo, the former mayor of Kherson who had agreed to work with the new Russian administration, in the head. The deputy mayor was also attacked in the nearby town of Nova Karkhovka. These are the latest attacks in a long series. If it is true that the military offensive is struggling, the war continues, by all means.

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August 6, 2022 (change August 6, 2022 | 22:23)



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