Ukrainian fighters of the 126th Separate Territorial Defense Brigade take part in a military drill on the southern coast of Ukraine on August 17, 2022. (Photo by Oleksandr GIMANOV / AFP)

The Ukraine and its announced but not taking place offensive in the south of the country continues to puzzle observers. Russia has now significantly increased its troops in the area. Kyiv doesn’t seem particularly worried about that.

Why? The possible Ukrainian plan to liberate the area around the city of Cherson seems paradoxical at first glance: Because the military leadership in Kyiv never intended to drive out the Russians by fighting, but rather to make their position untenable.

Statements by Roman Kostenko, a member of parliament who is fighting in the ranks of the special forces in southern Ukraine, support this scenario. He told the British “Guardian” (source here): “We don’t have enough weapons to start an offensive now and hit the enemy. It’s just enough to defend our territory”. This coincides with assessments by Western experts and statements by Ukrainian politicians and the military.

He further explains: “To liberate Kherson, we don’t need to attack Kherson. If we control the bridge, they have no logistics.” The background: The Ukrainians have made all three bridges over the Dnipro impassable for heavy traffic. The supply routes for the Russian troops are thus permanently disrupted, ammunition and food will soon become scarce, and defense against the Ukrainians will be difficult.

The idea in Kyiv could be that the Russians will eventually realize that the area around Cherson can no longer be defended and withdraw. It was similar in the early weeks of the war: when the Russians realized that they could not conquer Kyiv and attack Donbass at the same time, they withdrew from the north of the country. Moscow will probably soon be faced with this decision again. The advantage for the Ukrainians: They would be spared a possible costly attack on Cherson and thus a house-to-house war.

Statements by Mykhailo Podolyak, one of President Zelenskyy’s advisers, go in a similar direction. “Russia has taught everyone that for a counter-offensive you need large amounts of forces hitting one direction like a giant fist. A Ukrainian counter-offensive looks very different. We don’t use the tactics of the ’60s and ’70s,” explains one Interview with the “Guardian” (source here).

Last week there were rumors that the Russian regional military leadership had fled Kherson to the safer eastern side of the Dnipro River. Will more Russian troops follow soon?

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