The video report from Dudchany, behind the front line advancing towards Kherson: «We will arrive at the Black Sea», explain the Ukrainian soldiers, «but we need other weapons».
We take advantage of that classic moment of the maximum confusion of the battle, when the front lines mix and no one knows where friends and enemies are, to follow the advancing Ukrainian troops.
Where are the Russians? we continually ask the rare patrols patrolling the main road that runs along the great river that cuts Ukraine in two.
The soldiers open their arms, indicate that we can continue, someone warns us to be careful. “There are still stranded Russians around and they might try to attack you to get civilian clothes and escape in the car,” they warn, but they are distracted, they have other orders than not to worry about foreign journalists.
The Dnipro flows blue and placid to delimit the cultivated fields just disturbed by rare rows of trees on our left. Nature follows its course, the water does not stop: but here, on the land disputed between men, it is bad, hard war, with the corpses scattered in the streets, hidden among the yellowing grass and mines everywhere; with the filthy trenches of abandoned food and uniforms soaked in blood; with the asphalt marked deep by the tracks of the tanks and blackened debris still hot.
There is no need to bother Tolstoy or Stendhal to emphasize how generally those who are right in the middle of the shots and run away in fear, the fragments of the bombs a few meters away, hardly have a cold mind to understand what is really happening around. But yesterday the confusion of the battle allowed us to reach the agricultural outskirts of the village of Dudchany. Here until the other night the Ukrainian avant-gardes had settled after an advance about 35 kilometers long. Yet the Ukrainian army has not organized checkpoints and checks. The few remaining civilians are tapped into the houses.
The special troops, the soldiers of the front lines, move on the field: they let us pass by making the “v” of victory and broad smiles if we try to photograph them.
If it were up to them, we could even catch up with the Russians on the other side of the clouds of black smoke, it doesn’t concern them. But soon the military police will arrive and then everything will be different, as is already happening in the newly reconquered areas of Donbass, where escorts and permits are now needed for the press.
But let’s proceed in order. We came to the Kherson sector because the new Ukrainian counter-offensive began here last Sunday, opening a new hot front and a second crisis for the Russian commanders. Putin has a nice say that these are “only temporary achievements”: what we encounter is the factual denial of the farce referendum in the occupied areas and their annexation to “mother Russia” made up of proclamations and ceremonies. Moscow is annexing Kherson on paper, but in fact it is losing ithour after hour, kilometer after kilometer.
We could have reached Mykolaiv from Odessa, in western Kherson, where the local governor, Vitaly Kim, said yesterday that the Russians are clearly withdrawing and have almost completely abandoned the city of Snihurivka. But the backbone of the Ukrainian attack is right here, along the Dniprothe area that acts as a hinge between the area of the large nuclear power plant of Zaporizhzhia and the one that goes down to the bridges that connect the capital of Kherson to the roads to Crimea and the Donbass to the east.
The goal is clear: some 30,000 Russian soldiers are at risk of being trapped in Kherson. The signs of their siege are now evident. Yesterday a Ukrainian missile hit a hotel where at least 200 officers are headquartered, seven would have lost their lives. Kirill Stremousov, the now well-known Moscow collaborator who governs the city, yesterday denied that the Ukrainians “can ever set foot in Kherson.” But reality from the battlefield speaks a different language. “We will march to the Black Sea,” a smiling officer shouts from the turret of his tank, from which bags of food and blankets hang. In the past two months, their artillery has destroyed bridges and made barge traffic nearly impossible.
If the Ukrainian advance reaches the sea, for the Russians it is defeat.
We pass the village of Marianske around 2 pm Here from the end of March to five days ago the old line of fire ran. We see some houses hit, checkpoints broken down, but all in all the destruction is limited, as if the Ukrainian attack had been very rapid, without giving the Russians time to react.
The first vehicles burned and the wreckage on the road arrive five or six kilometers further on, coinciding with the villages of Zolota Balta and Mykhalivka: the fields are marked by tanks and mounds of loose earth, which mark the paths of the trenches. Many trees are broken and bomb craters can be seen everywhere. After passing some burnt tracked vehicles marked with the Russian “Z”, flanked by the wreckage of overturned Ukrainian Jeeps, the scene becomes raw. At least six corpses of Russian soldiers lie on the ground.
The explosions made the faces almost unrecognizable, a couple were gutted by shrapnel. Some Ukrainian patrols have taken over their bunkers a hundred meters back, they are clearing them up to organize their bivouacs. They don’t care about the dead. Only after a few minutes will we notice that there are others half hidden in the grass. “Their fleeing comrades were too in a hurry to pick them up. Our health units will take care of burying them in the next few days, “they say distractedly. “I don’t think about these dead. We want to live and we ask Europe to send us more weapons. We need it to beat the Russians»Says Max, a 23-year-old infantryman.
Another, Dimitri, explains in a quiet voice that “he feels absolutely nothing for these dead.” He then thinks about it and adds: «They should serve as a warning for all the new recruits that Putin would like to send to fight. They must know that this is the end that awaits them. We killed their much more experienced fellow veterans. The Russians run away from here, they are unable to regroup. Coming here now in the Russian uniform means being doomed to suicide ”.
We continue towards the advanced lines. Every hundred meters there is a wrecked vehicle, mostly Russian. Arriving at the crossroads for Novoaleksandrivka we find Russian positions well stocked with ammunition and food. On the back the clothes are hung out to dry. At the entrance to a small bunker with a roof studded with massive logs, its occupants had prepared a pile of wood for the stove. On the ground there are still bloody uniforms, military boots and rubles along with Russian sim cards. It is then that the artillery becomes more intense, right on the outskirts of Dudchany. A soldier explains that they are now widening the advance corridor so as not to risk being attacked from the southern flank. The commands explain that they have taken dozens of other villages, among them: Liubymivka, Khmeschenivka, Zolota Balka, Biliaivka, Ukrainka, Velkya, Mala Oleksandrivka. Ukrainians recycle Russian material to entrench themselves. We see them taking away a giant Uragan rocket truck that has just been captured. They don’t seem willing to retire at all: they are here to stay.
The Corriere della Sera and the Corriere.it website are out today and tomorrow without the signatures of journalists due to trade union agitation