The fall of Ukraine's southern port Kherson and its ramifications
Russia's move of capturing Kherson assumes strategic significance as it can control Ukraine's Southern coastline and also mobilize a movement of Russian troops through this entryway as its invasion in Ukraine enters week two
Even as the Ukrainian army has put up a fight in Kyiv and other important cities in a pushback to Russia, earlier this week Russia's defence ministry confirmed that they had taken over Kherson, the port city located in the southern part of Ukraine on March 3. It is the first major urban centre to fall since Russia invaded Ukraine a week ago. The move is also seen as an effort to cut off Ukraine from its coastline and debilitate it in the war.
Despite many experts pointing out that Odessa is the end goal for the Kremlin, Kherson assumes significance considering that it is an urban and economic center and an important port on the Black Sea and on the Dnieper River and the home of a major ship-building industry.
Russia's move assumes strategic significance as it can control Ukraine's Southern coastline and also mobilize the movement of Russian troops through this entryway as its invasion in Ukraine enters a week.
With a population of 2,50,000 Ukrainians who are now living under a curfew in Kherson, traffic is restricted and no more than two Ukrainians have been allowed to gather thereby restricting pedestrian movement.
Reports suggest that the southern port was being subject to incessant shelling by Russian forces leaving it without adequate water, power, daily supplies and restricting evacuation of people.
More than a million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion, while reports suggest that till now close to 227 civilians have been killed and 535 wounded. This is even as other major cities such as Kharkiv, Chernihiv, and Mariupol are experiencing heavy shelling as the war intensifies.
WHY DID KHERSON FALL?
Reports are rife that through capturing this southeastern port, Russia aims to create a 'land corridor' linking two breakaway regions that have pro-Russia rebels with Crimea. Russia's capture of Kherson can be read as its intention to control the economic trade route to the Mediterranean sea and also to create a buffer zone in the south to stem any threats.
HOME TO SHIPBUILDING INDUSTRY
Kherson port is located near the mouth of the Dnieper River and is navigable year-round. Kherson houses the important Kherson Shipyard that has a reputation for building and in the construction of various types of vessels like merchant ships, tankers, container ships, icebreakers, Arctic supply ships, refrigerators among others. It also has an airport among other important civilian infrastructure and institutions.
Kherson is a large-sized port that has vessels carrying general cargo, bulk carriers, cargo carriers, SAW, inland and general cargo maritime vessels come calling. The Kherson port handles general, dry, and bulk cargo and it is open to vessels of any flag and can admit vessels up to 200 m in length and 7.6 m draft in freshwaters.
It specializes in transshipment of domestic and international cargo, freight handling, packaging of bulk chemicals, transport of international cargo to other ports of the Black sea and to the Mediterranean, tug convoy facilities, pilotage of vessels by icebreakers, and quarrying and shipping of sand.
MERCHANT SHIPPING UNDER THREAT
On Thursday, an Estonia-owned cargo ship sank off Odessa port just hours after a Bangladeshi vessel was hit by a missile or a bomb at Odessa. Despite many shipping lines having suspended operations to Black Sea ports and other terminals in Ukraine owing to the intense Russia-Ukraine conflict, reports of at least three commercial ships having been hit by projectiles since the start of Russia's invasion have been reported.