The Russian-installed government of the occupied Kherson region in southern Ukraine announced on Sunday that the city was mostly without water and electricity due to heavy Ukrainian shelling over the weekend. The announcement followed a series of Ukrainian strikes thought to come in preparation for an assault to retake the only regional capital to fall to Russian forces.
The administration claimed that “Ukrainian reconnaissance and sabotage teams” had destroyed “three reinforced concrete poles of high-voltage power lines,” cutting off power to ten different localities within Kherson province, including the city itself. Russia’s state-run TASS news network also noted that Kherson had also been left without water due to strikes on the city’s power grid. Ukraine has not commented on its targets in the Kherson area.
As part of the months-long counteroffensive underway since early September, Ukrainian forces have steadily recaptured territory occupied by Russia after it first invaded the country in late February. Ukraine’s armed forces have closed in around the city from the north and west, while its south and east are bounded by the Dnieper River. Ukrainian artillery and drone strikes have also destroyed or damaged beyond use the bridges connecting Kherson with Russian-occupied territory across the river, limiting Russia’s ability to reinforce and resupply the city.
Russia has urged Ukrainian civilians within the city to flee to Russian-occupied territory on the other side of the river before the Ukrainian assault on the city begins in earnest. Kyiv, however, has discouraged this, arguing that Ukrainians remaining in Russian territory could be placed in “filtration camps” intended to screen out pro-Ukrainian sentiment and urging civilians to seek shelter inside the city instead. However, tens of thousands of Ukrainians are nonetheless thought to have fled in advance of the attack.
In the run-up to the assault, Russia has also accused Ukraine of laying the groundwork for a humanitarian catastrophe by launching a missile at a dam located to the north of the city. Ukraine has denied conducting that attack and has accused Russia of launching it.
Kherson initially fell to Russian troops after less than two weeks of fighting in early March. The provincial capital’s early capitulation to Moscow raised concerns that some of the city’s leaders had voluntarily agreed to switch sides and collaborate with the Kremlin. Two members of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s cabinet were reportedly fired due to their failure to prevent the plot, although Kyiv did not comment on the decision behind their dismissal.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.