Key Ukrainian city’s rapid fall leaves unanswered questions

KHERSON, Ukraine (AP) — When about 100 Russian troops rolled into Kherson’s Lilac Park on the morning of March 1, Oleh Shornik was one among about 20 flippantly armed Ukrainian volunteers who did not stand an opportunity in opposition to them.

Ukraine’s army was nowhere to be seen, and Russian troops in armored automobiles had simply entered the Shumensky neighborhood, opening hearth and sending shrapnel flying in every single place, witnesses stated. Civilians strolling to work have been hit within the quick, fierce battle. The volunteers, hiding among the many bushes within the park, have been minimize down so quickly that they weren’t even capable of throw the Molotov cocktails that they had ready.

“They didn’t have time to do something,” stated Anatolii Hudzenko, who was inside his residence subsequent to the park in the course of the assault, in an interview with The Related Press.

Left seemingly on their very own, the civilian volunteers fell shortly. A day later, so did Kherson.

1000’s of Russian troops, sweeping up from the Crimean Peninsula on Feb. 24, captured town on the Dnieper River so quickly that many residents say they felt deserted by the Ukrainian army and its fast withdrawal, leaving town with out an enough protection.

However was the doomed stand in Lilac Park a futile, early act of resistance to what grew to become a bloody Russian occupation of Kherson? Was it as a result of hasty retreat by Ukraine’s army so it may regroup to battle one other day — certainly later retaking town in November? Or was it the results of a betrayal by high-level Ukrainian safety officers collaborating with Moscow?

It is attainable it was a mix of all of these.

Now that Russia has retreated from Kherson following Ukraine’s counteroffensive within the south, residents wish to know why Moscow’s forces have been capable of overrun town so simply.

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“There are extra questions than solutions to this story,” stated Svetlana Shornik, standing at her ex-husband’s grave for the primary time as a result of the Russians had blocked entry to the cemetery whereas that they had occupied town.

Moreover the volunteers killed within the park, about 5 others have been slain that day at a roundabout close by.

Households of the useless say they’ve been attempting in useless for months to get data from the army and the federal government to allow them to have some closure in regards to the deaths of their family members.

“I do know little or no,” stated Nadiia Khandusenko, recounting what few info she is aware of in regards to the loss of life of her husband, Serhii, who additionally was killed in Lilac Park.

Wiping away tears, Shornik informed the AP that she believes her ex-husband in all probability suffered in his remaining minutes as a result of an post-mortem revealed the 53-year-old retired policeman was shot within the lung. The our bodies lay on the bloodstained grounds of the park for 3 days as a result of the Russians wouldn’t enable them to be buried, residents stated.

“They’re heroes,” Shornik stated. “They have been virtually defending (town) with their naked fingers,” she stated.


Ukraine’s Territorial Protection Power started working simply earlier than the Russian invasion. A volunteer militia below the command of the Protection Ministry, it was made up of civilians, part-time reservists and former troops to battle alongside the common army.

Regardless of their lack of coaching and tools, the volunteers have performed an important position within the warfare and have been a key purpose Kyiv wasn’t occupied, stated Mykhailo Samus, founding father of New Geopolitics Analysis Community, a Ukrainian assume tank.

“When a (Russian) sabotage group will get right into a metropolis, they anticipate to see civilians, however they discovered lots of people with Kalashnikov weapons and it was a catastrophe for Russians,” Samus stated.

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Civilian volunteers have been unable to carry again the Russian forces from Kherson, a port metropolis with a prewar inhabitants of 280,000 that’s residence to a ship-building trade.

Kherson is simply north of Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014. When Ukraine managed town, it was capable of minimize off contemporary water to the peninsula, and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke of the necessity to restore water provides as one purpose to invade.

Flat and marshy, the Kherson area has few forests or different pure obstacles to halt the tanks and troops from close by Crimea that hosts Russia’s Black Sea fleet and air bases.

As well as, Ukrainian officers corresponding to Kherson Mayor Ihor Kolykhaev informed the newspaper Ukrainska Pravda in Might that the failure to destroy key bridges resulting in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia areas was a mistake that helped the Russians, though he harassed he was not a army man.

Ukraine’s outnumbered army, in the meantime, had withdrawn from Kherson for the southern metropolis of Mykolaiv, stated Maj. Oleksandr Fedyunin, a army spokesman.

That withdrawal “ensured the survivability of troops and didn’t enable the enemy to realize hearth superiority within the air,” stated Bohdan Senyk, chief spokesman for the military.

Kherson’s swift seize has raised questions on whether or not Ukrainian collaborators aided the Russian invasion.

“Russia had its brokers infiltrated into the Ukrainian safety forces, and the cleanup by Kyiv was gradual and inefficient,” stated Orysia Lutsevych, head of the Ukraine discussion board on the London-based Chatham Home assume tank. “The price of that betrayal was excessive human loss.”

On April 1, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed two senior officers of Ukraine’s SBU home safety company, together with the top of the Kherson regional department, stripping their rank as generals for violating their army oath of allegiance. He known as them “anti-heroes” and stated they “had bother figuring out the place their Fatherland is.”

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He added: “I don’t have time now to cope with all of the traitors, however they’ll all face punishment.”

As well as, an aide to a kind of SBU officers was arrested and faces prosecution for allegedly handing over maps of minefields and serving to coordinate Russian airstrikes that aided Moscow’s forces, stated Oleksandr Samoilenko, head of Kherson’s regional legislature.


The Russian takeover of Kherson — the one regional capital to fall within the warfare — ushered in a harsh, eight-month occupation that noticed fierce resistance from its remaining civilians, together with assaults in opposition to Moscow-installed officers, planted bombs and different threats. Moscow launched the ruble, arrange Russian cellphone networks and minimize off Ukrainian TV within the space. Road protests have been banned.

As in different Ukrainian areas that Russia seized, officers who refused to cooperate have been kidnapped, together with the Kherson mayor, Kolykhaev. Residents allege they have been confined, overwhelmed, shocked, interrogated and threatened with loss of life in at the very least 5 websites within the metropolis and 4 others within the wider area.

The area was one among 4 that was illegally annexed by Moscow in September, though its troops have been pressured to withdraw weeks later as Ukrainians stepped up their assaults with U.S.-supplied missiles and minimize the Russians’ provide traces. The retreating forces left behind mines and booby traps, shuttered retailers and eating places, and a traumatized inhabitants.

In Lilac Park, a small memorial honors the volunteers who fell there. Wreaths are fixed to a couple bushes, with some yellow roses and a plaque mounted with a cross and a small Ukrainian flag on the high.

It reads: “On March 1, 2022, fighters from the Territorial Protection have been taken to heaven.”


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