Resistance groups are taking action against Russian forces in occupied Ukraine.
A Kherson resident tells Business Insider that the resistance takes both violent and non-violent forms.
A major Ukrainian counter-offensive in Kherson is likely imminent, experts say.
The resistance movement is growing in the Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine. In Kherson, the first Ukrainian city occupied by Russia, guerrilla units are now targeting pro-Russian politicians, planting bombs and collaborating with the military to carry out attacks against Russian troops.
“Our aim is to make life unbearable for the Russian occupiers and to thwart their plans by any means necessary,” Andriy, a member of the Zhovta Strichka resistance movement, told the Associated Press news agency.
“We give the Ukrainian military precise coordinates for various targets, and with the help of the guerrillas, the new long-range weapons, especially HIMARS, will become even more powerful. We are invisible behind Russian lines, that is our strength.”
Last month, Ukrainian forces used US-supplied HIMARS – a rocket launcher system – to attack the strategically important Antonivsky Bridge over the Dnieper, which serves as a supply route for Russian troops in Kherson. A 40-car train carrying ammunition from supply depots in occupied Crimea to Russian forces in the Kherson region was also bombed. reports Forbes.
On Saturday, Ukraine claimed it had destroyed another bridge in Nova Kakhovka, northeast of Kherson, rendering it impassable.
These attacks have severely impacted the Russian supply chain. According to Western intelligence information, Russia can only supply its armed forces in the region via two pontoon ferries, reports “The Telegraph”.
The Ukrainian military now appears to be preparing for a broader counter-offensive to retake Kherson as forces have attacked Russian command centers and ammunition depots. In May and June, partisans blew up two railway bridges in Melitopol and derailed two Russian military trains, Melitopol mayor Ivan Fyodorov told AP.
“The resistance movement has three goals: destroying Russian weapons and their supplies, discrediting and intimidating the occupiers and their collaborators, and informing Ukrainian special services about enemy positions,” he added.
Anna (her name has been changed to protect her identity), who lives in Kherson, tells Business Insider that resistance forces stepped up action against Russian troops in the city, attacking Russian vehicles and administrative buildings and killing pro-Moscow officials.
“It’s all good because they are our enemies and they are occupying us,” she said. “We should regain control of our city as soon as possible.”
This week the Russian-installed Kherson Mayor Vladimir Saldo was reportedly poisoned and taken to Moscow where he lies in a medical coma, the “EveningStandardd” with reference to Russian opposition media.
His deputy Kirill Stremousov denied that Saldo was in a coma and explained on his Telegram channel that his boss’s illness was due to “mental and physical stress”.
Another Russian-deployed officer in Kherson, Dmytry Savluchenko, was killed in a bomb blast in June, and Saldo’s assistant Pavel Slobodchikov was shot dead in his car in March.
Other officers were shot at and bombs were planted in officers’ homes and near their places of work, the AP said.
Mark Cancian, a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider that while guerrilla warfare is often romanticized, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
“Guerrilla warfare is extremely destructive to society in many ways,” he said. “There is physical devastation caused by the fighting, but there is also social devastation as these are basically civil wars pitting one part of one country against another.”
A violent and a non-violent resistance movement
Since the war of aggression, Russia has been trying to erase Ukrainian identity. These include issuing Russian passports, introducing the Russian ruble, and restricting access to Ukrainian internet and television.
There are rumors of referendums on union with Russia being held in the occupied territories, with observers noting that such votes are unlikely to be legitimate.
In the first weeks of the occupation, there were defiant protests in Kherson, but Russian forces cracked down on them, arresting activists and conducting checks and raids.
However, the resistance movement has not been suppressed, but has changed its tactics.
The guerrilla movement has distributed pamphlets, leaflets and a newspaper in the occupied territories to protest possible referendums.
Yellow ribbons or graffiti have been put up on administrative buildings where the elections would take place, the group said on theirs Telegram channel With. According to some reports, the symbols are intended to warn civilians that the sites could be targets for bombing.
“I think what we’re going to see, and probably what we’re already seeing, is a lot of passive resistance to this type of cast,” Cancian said. “So far it hasn’t had any major impact. But it shows that Ukrainians are not ready to become part of Russia”
An impending counter-offensive could take a heavy toll
A successful counter-offensive to take Kherson would be difficult, but would give Ukraine a tremendous boost.
Cancian pointed out that offensive operations are much more difficult than defensive operations and require a level of skill that the Ukrainians obviously don’t have.
Some Western and Ukrainian officials have expressed concerns that they do not have enough troops and weapons for a successful offensive, and that it would likely take a heavy toll.
Nevertheless, Ukrainian politicians and military officials have continued to announce their plans to retake the occupied territories.
Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Iryna Vereshchuk last month urged residents of Kherson to evacuate the city and surrounding region if possible.
“Please go because our army will definitely clear these areas,” she said, according to the New York Times. “Our will to do this is unshakable.”