The Ukrainian army faces the obstacle of the Dnieper

A month ago, the Russian army left the city of Kherson, the only major city in southern Ukraine to be captured since the invasion at the end of February. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky then spoke about the “beginning of the end of the war”. Still, the soldiers from Moscow did not get far. They have just changed banks, on the other side of the Dnieper, the great river that borders Kherson.

From the Antonivsky Bridge, the only crossing point between the two banks before they were destroyed during the withdrawal, they can be seen through binoculars 400 meters away. From the grand staircase of the Slavy Park descending to the waters of the Dnieper, one does not see a living soul on the islands separating the two banks. From the harbor of Kherson, where a ship is half sunken, only a crane and a few uninhabited houses can be seen on the other side. But the sound of explosions reminds us that the Russians are there.

Strategy puzzle

Since their withdrawal to the other side of the river, the Ukrainian military authorities have wondered what strategy to follow. Crossing the Dnieper is no easy feat. Since the destruction of the Antonivsky Bridge, the nearest crossing is 70 kilometers to the east. At Kherson the river becomes an estuary and flows into the nearby Black Sea. It is several kilometers wide and divided into secondary arms, real rivers that meander between strips of land dotted with vegetation, mansions and small lakes. A strategic puzzle and a natural barrier that is difficult to cross if it is necessary to pass men and heavy vehicles.

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On their banks, the Ukrainian soldiers also remain under cover for fear of snipers and bombardments. On December 4, Druzhby Street, which runs along Slavy Park, the side of a building was blown up by a rocket, with no casualties. 100 meters away, all the windows of the university library, which overlooks the Dnieper, were blown up by the explosions. The inhabitants take precautions to bypass the park so as not to be targeted by snipers, fleeing the entrance to the Antonivsky bridge. Kherson is afraid of rockets, artillery, mortars, as well as simple guns.

On December 5, a member of the regional board came to a building in the harbor to wait for three small motorboats coming from the other side. On board ten people who had retired to one of the many summer and weekend houses on the islands that separated the two shores, to avoid crossing paths with the Russians during the occupation or to keep away from war. Now, on the front lines, they are trapped.

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