Guards of the Dnieper gate in Otchakiv under Russian fire

In the far north of the Black Sea, Ukraine’s strategic naval base Otchakiv overlooks the mouth of the Dnieper River and access to the ports of Mykolaiv and Kherson.

The Russians failed to take it at the beginning of the invasion, and since then they have been striking directly at the other side from the Kinbourn Peninsula. Kiev could retake it to advance to the east bank of the Dnieper River, where Moscow’s troops had retreated a month earlier.

The town of Otchakiv, famous for its sandy beaches, seaside hotels, one of which has a guitar-shaped pool, was a very popular summer resort.

In the first hours of the Russian invasion on February 24, this amazing sight disappeared. The local port and its naval base, which Russian President Vladimir Putin accuses of being in American hands, were among the first bombing targets of Moscow forces.

24 soldiers were martyred that day.

Russian units then attempted an amphibious assault.

Ochakiv deputy mayor Oleksiy Vaskov told AFP during a visit to the area under close control of the army on Saturday: “They organized a landing operation on our coast. But our armed forces and special forces prevented this operation.”

With a population of 15,000 before the war, Otchakiv is located at the mouth of the Dnieper, which leads east to the ports of Kherson, and the Bug, which leads north to Mykolaiv.

Opposite the city, 4.5 km away, at the end of the peninsula of the same name, on the east bank of the Dnieper, Kinbourn Peak stretches.

– Special Forces –

“Ochakiv is the gateway to the Kherson, Nikolayev regions and the upper part of the river, Zaporozhye, Dnieper, Kiev and other cities (…) Therefore, Ochakiv is strategically important for both commercial and military reasons,” he explains. deputy mayor.

Since June, Russian forces have invested in the peninsula. Basically, they regularly attack Ochakiv from there.

“We are using artillery and our special forces to try to neutralize them. The goal is to clear the place,” a naval base official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

At the end of November, the Ukrainian army announced that its forces were carrying out a “military operation” on the peninsula without giving further details.

The governor of the region, Vitaly Kim, assured: “We are in the process of regaining full control over the region (Nikolaiv). We have three spitting points left in Kinburn, which will no longer officially be a war zone.”

But in early December, the Russian military responded by denying that Ukrainian forces had taken control of Kinburn’s spit, where several hundred residents had been evacuated.

According to the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), controlling the tip of the peninsula would “soften Russia’s strikes on the Black Sea coast” while “increasing naval activity and potential operations in the region”. Crossing the left bank of the Dnieper”.

– “We will survive” –

Last week, a Russian Grad missile hit a residential building in Otchakiv and did not cause any casualties. In early September, a grain silo was completely destroyed by a missile.

“The goal was to destroy our infrastructure, to destroy the grain warehouse used by our farmers, and to make an excuse for the presence of (American rocket launchers) HIMARS and other weapons here,” Deputy Mayor Oleksiy Vaskov explains.

“This is a 100% civilian company, we’ve never had a single soldier here,” the administrator fumes.

At the end of October, during the next bombing of the naval base, the Russian army announced that it targeted the training center of the Ukrainian special services.

Later, Moscow assured that the attack on its fleet in Crimea in Ochakiv was prepared with the help of British experts in the same month.

At the end of 2020, Ukraine signed an agreement with Great Britain on the supply of missile boats and the construction of port infrastructure for the Ochakov base.

In a city market shrouded in humid fog, 72-year-old Volodymyr Kozhevnykov prays that the Russians will be “kicked out of the (Kinbourn) axis to stop these strikes.”

62-year-old Oleg Klyuchko assures him that “the city is functional, the administration too, they are doing their best and we are protected by our soldiers.”

“I am not afraid of winter, I would like these holidays to stop. We will survive everything else,” he added.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *