Withdrawal from Chersonesos confirms the failure of the Russian strategy

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For days Ukrainians feared that it was a trap, suspicious of some signs: the Russian flag that no longer flew over the local government headquarters, videos showing the withdrawal of troops, the looting of televisions and washing machines, civilians forced to leave by force… Were the Russians really leaving the city of Chersonesos? Or were they just trying to lure the Ukrainian troops and then surround them?

On November 9, the order came from above: Russian Defense Minister Sergeo To prevent the Ukrainians from pursuing them, the Russians destroy bridges over the tributaries of the Dnieper.

Ukrainians, in any case, still do not trust. After all they know the tricks of war. For months in Kiev they repeated that they would attack Chersonesos, and instead it is in the north that they took the Russians by surprise in late August, marking a turning point in the conflict. If confirmed, the fall of Chersonesos will be another decisive moment, with a heavy defeat for Vladimir Putin.

The stakes are both symbolic and strategic. Symbolic because Chersonesos is part of one of the four Ukrainian territories that in September voted for membership in the Russian Federation. Losing Chersonesos less than two months after swearing that she would be “eternally Russian” means a catastrophe on the military level.

Chersonesos, a large city that before the war was populated by 280 thousand people, was the first regional capital conquered during the invasion. Among other things, the city is a stop on the way to the port of Odessa, on the Black Sea, and to Transnistria, the secessionist province of Moldova where Russian troops are deployed.

Losses among the newly enlisted after the mobilization of reservists were considerable

It is the dream of Novorossia, a name that dates back to the end of the eighteenth century. To emphasize the historical connection Putin allegedly sent a commando with the mission to exhume the remains of Empress Catherine’s lover, Prince Potkin Potmkin persuaded the Empress to annex Crimea in 1783. In this story we find Putin’s obsession with his historical narrative, with which he justified the ongoing war.

Chersonesos is the conclusion of eight months of disasters of a Russian army that has never ceased to surprise in the negative, up to the mobilization of more than 300 thousand reservists and the sending of tens of thousands of soldiers to plug the holes at the front, without preparation and without adequate equipment. The losses among the new enlistees were considerable.


This collapse explains the brutality of Russian action on cities, which today deprives four million Ukrainians of electricity and running water. For Putin it is the only way to show that he still has the initiative in hand, when in fact he lost it on the field after the end of the summer.

But the war is not over. Putin can hope to rebuild his army by next spring and has not yet said the last word. However the decision to evacuate Chersonesos can not hide the humiliation of a scorching failure for the unique master of the Kremlin. The problem is that this dynamic makes it even more dangerous.

(Translated by Andrea Sparacino)

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