Why Putin will fight for Kherson: Fresh water and land bridge to Crimea


Soldiers in Ukraine’s Karlson unit fire a Grad rocket at a Russian position in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine on Oct. 27. (Heidi Levine for The Washington Post)
Soldiers in Ukraine’s Karlson unit fire a Grad rocket at a Russian position in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine on Oct. 27. (Heidi Levine for The Washington Post)

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KHERSON REGION, Ukraine — Here in the muddy coastal region of Kherson, which sits like a crumpled hat atop the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula, soldiers are readying for what may become the biggest battle of President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, and perhaps the single best test of whether Moscow ends up winning any significant territory from its invasion or is forced to retreat empty-handed.

Ukrainian officials have signaled that an assault on Kherson city — the only regional capital that Russia has managed to capture since its invasion began Feb. 24 — could be imminent. President Volodymyr Zelensky told Ukrainians to “expect good news” from the region, and another top official recently said he expects to retake the city by the end of the year.


Ukrainian-reclaimed territory through counteroffensives

Four illegally

annexed

regions where

Putin declared

martial law

Area held by

Russia-backed

separatists

since 2014

Annexed

by Russia

in 2014

Control areas as of Nov. 1

Sources: Institute for the Study of War, AEI’s Critical Threats Project, Post reporting

Ukrainian-reclaimed territory

through counteroffensives

Four illegally annexed

regions where Putin

declared martial law

Annexed by

Russia in 2014

Area held by

Russia-backed

separatists

since 2014

Control areas as of Nov. 1

Sources: Institute for the Study of War,

AEI’s Critical Threats Project, Post reporting

Four illegally

annexed

regions where

Putin declared

martial law

Separatist-

controlled

area since

2014

Ukrainian-reclaimed territory

through counteroffensives

Annexed by

Russia in 2014

Control areas as of Nov. 1

Sources: Institute for the Study of War, AEI’s Critical Threats Project, Post reporting

Ukrainian-reclaimed territory

through counteroffensives

Four illegally

annexed

regions where

Putin declared

martial law

Area held by

Russia-backed

separatists

since 2014

Annexed by

Russia in 2014

Control areas as of Nov. 1

Sources: Institute for the Study of War, AEI’s Critical Threats Project

Russia, however, has shown no indication that it is willing to give up the city, or the broader Kherson region, which carries enormous strategic and political importance for the Kremlin.

The Ukrainian armed forces said last week that Russia…



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