Tit-For-Tat: An Update on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine + a look at the Kherson Oblast

As I write this blog it feels like things might be shifting in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Optimism is something I try not to gravitate towards too much after so much heartache and disbelief but this time it seems Russia is scrambling.


Today the news is filled with images of the Russian borders as citizens rush to flee the country following the declaration of conscription amid Russian suffering significant looses in the east of Ukraine and facing aggressive action from Ukraine in the south, specifically Crimea.


Here is a super quick run-down on the mains stories form the last month.


In mid-August Estonian authorities used a tank to remove a Soviet-era monument from the city of Narva. Several news stories report that this was inside a museum but from what I can see it was a monument located outside. This was just one of several former Soviet states to take steps to remove remnants of the former Soviet era in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, so it is possible that items have been removed from inside cultural buildings.


The removal of the monument in Narva is especially noteworthy as this is a largely Russian speaking part of the country. The tank that has been removed from display in Narva will be transported to the National War Museum closer to the capital Tallin, so thus history isn’t being lost just removed form where it was thought it could be used to propagate the Russian cause.

A commemorative tank monument is removed in Estonia, August 2022 (Photo by Sergei Stepanov, The Guardian)

At the end of August military action in Crimea increased. You’ll remember that this is a region Russia invaded in 2014. For more on why Ukrainian action here is important you can read my blog on the region: CLICK HERE


As Ukrainian action increased and global support only grew stronger for Ukraine, Russia stopped gas supplies to Germany by closing off Nord Stream 1 at the end of August. Ongoing halts to oil and gas distribution has since been enacted by Russia slowing or completely stopping supplies to many European nations. Russia have stated that this is a direct result of Western sanctions on Russia.


On the 9 September it was reported that Ukrainian troops had retaken parts of the Kharkiv Oblast and were having success in many regions held by the Russians. This counter-offensive by Ukraine is considered to have been very successful. As you can see from this BBC map there is a lot more purple coming onto the map, showing just how successful recent Ukrainian action HAS been.


In what is really a tit-for-tat battle, Russia then retaliated by launching a missile strike that caused the total blackout of north-eastern Ukraine, the Kharkiv Oblast and the Donetsk blast.

On 19 September Ukrainian forces recaptured the village of Bilohoribka in the Luhansk Oblast. The next day Russian authorities introduced new laws prohibiting the voluntary surrender of Russian troops and they also called up reservist forces which is what has sparked the mass exodus from the nation with most reservists reported to have been conscripted.


It seems that the war, which for most Russians was a distant action that they either supported thanks to the national propaganda or had no opinion on, now find themselves needing to care as they fear being sent to the front to fight.


Does this mean that public opinion may have an influence in Russia? Will Putin realise he began a loosing battle?


I heard someone (I wish I remembered who) state that one man began this war and just one can end it. If Putin stops the fighting the war ends. If Ukraine stop fighting, Ukraine ceases to exist.


Maybe now the people of Russia will feel motivated to stand up against Putin and finally bring an end to this madness.

Flags of Zaporizhia, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts

As I write this update the Donetsk and Luhansk Republics are preparing to go to the polls to vote in a Referendum on joining Russia (as independent Republics). Similar moves are also taking place in occupied Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. This probably goes without saying but I think we all know what the unanimous (and very fairly held referendum *cough*) will be.


I have written about the Donbas Oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk (you can read about them here: click here) but I have mentioned I'd re-visit Kherson as I was surprised at how quickly Russia worked to install the use of their own money and passports earlier this year. So here is a super quick run-down on how things got to where they are in the Kherson Oblast.


I didn't realise that a referendum was going to be held in Zaporizhzhia as well so I'll sahre more on the result and the history of the region at a later date.


Kherson Coat of Arms bears the foundation date of 1778

Kherson

The port city of Kherson has been one of the main places on the news when it comes to the Ukrainian invasion with the city falling to Russia back on 2 March 2022. Within days of this Russia had announced plans to create the Kherson people’s Republic and install a government sympathetic to Russia.


The city of Kherson dates back to 1778 when it was founded by Catherine the Great following Russian annexation of the region. It fast became a successful shipping port and in 1803 became the capital for the Kherson seat of government. In February 1920 the region fell to the Red Army and two years later was incorporated into the newly formed Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.


During World War Two the city was occupied by the Germans who established a POW camp in the city. The Germans faced guerrilla opposition from both Ukrainian nationalists and Soviet supporters, showing how even back then there was division amongst locals as to if they should be part of Soviet Russia or an independent Ukraine.


Following the devastating years of the war the region did re-build and the population grew rapidly with the return to a strong industrial and shipping industry. In 1991 over 90% of the region voted to join the independent Ukraine which you could argue resolved the question of Ukrainian independence vs. annexation with Russia.

This map shows the location of Kherson (Source: Aljazeera)

Following the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014 the Ukrainian administrative offices of Crimea were re-located to Kherson. According to the last election results, back in 2020, the parties that are perceived as aligned with Russian interests gained around 30% of the vote – a minority. Having said that around half of the population speak Russian as their first language despite mover 75% identifying as Ukrainian.


These numbers would be very different now though with it estimated that at least 45% of the population had fled the city by the end of May.

The city of Kherson, 2022 (Source: Sky News)

Those that remain face a Russian state. In my last blog I mentioned that more Russian troops were descending on Kherson and that is likely to try and ensure the region remains in Russian hands.


Did you know that Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky was born in Bereslavka that is within the Kherson Oblast! Yep he is of Ukrainian heritage and he was born into a wealthy Jewish family, I'll just let you think about that for a minute.


Another famous historic figure who hails from Kherson is Grigory Potemkin, one of the Catherine the Great's famous lovers.


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Further Reading:

*This blog has been put together with multiple current news sources such as the BBC World News Podcast, local nightly news and media outlets such as News.com


Articles and Websites:


Disclaimer: The observations and comments made in this blog are made after reflecting on the news stories and histories I read. History plays a big part in how I understand the present so my comments largely take into account history and the role it has in the present. After all, those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.


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