GUEST BLOG: Ben Morgan: Ukraine – Kherson falls possibly a game changer


Yesterday, the city of Kherson fell to Russian forces, so we have to reassess the situation.  Kherson is an important element of any strategy to advance across the south of Ukraine and create a coastal, ‘Crimean Corridor’.  Kherson is city of about 300,000 people or approximately the same number as Wellington.  It is important because of its strategic position on the Dnieper River near the coast, it is a significant rail junction and has an airport with a 2500 metre runway able to support medium sized transport aircraft.

A key thread in this discussion relates to the logistics of military operations.  Any foot soldier needs to be supported by lots of other people who provide food, fuel, ammunition, medical care and other supplies.  That’s why cities are important for military planners, they have roads and large concreted areas that make moving and unloading large trucks easy. Cities have water, power and hospitals.  Buildings can be repurposed to house headquarters, provide accommodation for soldiers and storage for supplies.

By capturing Kherson the Russians now have an area that could provide a logistics base for an advance on Ukraine’s major city on the Black Sea coast, Odessa. Once, Kherson is secure it is likely that the Russians will establish a logistics hub there and start pushing towards Odessa.  The airport is easily large enough for Russian tactical transport aircraft and helicopters to use providing an airhead that could rapidly bring soldiers and supplies into the area.  

Will the capture of Kherson see a switch in Russia’s main effort?  

Kiev remains the political and cultural heart of Ukraine.  If it is in Russian hands, they can claim victory and install a puppet Ukrainian government.  However, as we have discussed Kiev is an increasingly hard nut to crack.  Yesterday, we discussed the dilemma that Putin faces as options for ‘victory’ slip away.  A change of focus to the south and capture of the ‘Crimean Corridor’ look like a good option.  Securing the Black Sea coast and creating a land corridor that links the Russia to Transnistria could provide a face saving ‘win’ even if Kiev is not captured.  

The question is can Russia, do it? Odessa is about a 150 kilometres from Kherson, about the distance between Auckland and Hamilton, and the advance needs to cross a number of major rivers.  However, the Russians still have a significant strategic reserve of airborne forces and their successful amphibious operations a week ago demonstrated the ability to land soldiers from the sea.  These types of forces could be used to leap frog along the coast capturing bridges ahead of advancing conventional forces. 

If the Russians have the resources, it seems logical that they will advance towards Odessa.  The city is of considerable cultural and historical significance and is a major Black Sea port.  But it will take time, first they need to secure Kherson, then rest and reconstitute their forces.  We will see activity pushing west and possibly north along the Dnieper from Kherson soon but I think we should plan on about a week before Odessa is decisively engaged. 

Pressure will be maintained on Kiev, there are reports that the Russian advance has slowed down or stopped. However, it is impossible to deduce much from this information other than Russia has air superiority in the local area. The advance could be slowing for many reasons.  Ukrainian attacks or because the Russians are setting the tempo, slowing the advance to consolidate their forces and prepare for a deliberate, well-planned attack.

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Yesterday, I discussed the Royal United Services Institute’s assessment of the Ukrainian army’s offensive capabilities. The assessment said that the Ukrainian army had lost it ability to fight offensively.  However, in the last 24 hours there have been media reports of Ukrainian counter attacks and it is important to provide some context. The Ukrainian counter attacks are relatively small local attacks and do little to change the wider assessment and do not demonstrate a capability to defeat the Russians conventionally. 

The developing situation provides context for the second round of talks between Ukraine and Russia that started at about 3am this morning in New Zealand time.  The talks will be interesting and provide an insight into the Russian’s strategy.  If concessions are made it is likely that the Russians are looking for a face-saving negotiated solution, perhaps securing a Crimean Corridor, their withdrawal from the north followed by a truce. A peace that of course would be temporary while the Russians planned their next move.  

Or if the Russians take a hard line, it could mean either a longer and more bloody war or possibly a nuclear escalation.  Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, an urbane and experienced diplomat’s recent warning “that if a third world war were to occur, it would involve nuclear weapons and be destructive” is a disturbing, Lavrov is not known for his rhetoric.  Statements like this are used by Russia to deter NATO intervention, however these threats have much more weight coming from a man like Lavrov and could indicate a willingness to use nuclear forces. 

So at the end of D + 8 let’s look at our predictions:


  • Today, Kiev may no longer be the decisive point in the campaign. Russian main effort may start to switch to the south after the fall of Kherson.  It is too soon to tell and today’s negotiations will provide more information.  However, don’t expect a respite for Kiev it will continue to be menaced and bombards holding Ukrainian forces there that could be used elsewhere. 
  • Expect to see lots of activity around Kherson as the Russians probe outwards both to keep Ukrainian forces at bay while they reconstitute and secure the city and as they look for weaknesses that can be exploited by either advancing north towards Kiev or west towards Odessa. 
  • The battle of Kiev is progressing as expected, slowly and won’t advance significantly today while negotiations are under way.  
  • Russia’s nuclear rhetoric continues, risk exists that there may be a nuclear show of force.  Sergey Lavrov’s statement is important and will be interpreted carefully by NATO analysts.  
  • Continue to expect reports of more Russian troops being mobilised and moved to Ukraine. 

In summary, yesterday was an interesting day punctuated by the fall of Kherson and the start of a second round of negotiations.  While it is too early to assess the effect of the fall of Kherson on the wider campaign, it may provide the Russians with sensible non-nuclear options to ‘win’ the war. 

The question is do the Russians have the conventional combat power in the south to conduct a large offensive.  Initially, their advances in the south were quick and, in this area, they have more local support so they may have the ability to continue to menace Kiev while at the same time developing a new offensive in the south. Time will tell. 


Ben Morgan is a tired Gen X interested in international politics. He is TDB’s Military analyst.


  1. It seems likely that eventually all or most Ukrainian cities etc must fall and that Ukraine will then switch to resisting using irregular / guerrilla warfare.
    This will be very hard for Russia to counter with as there will still be a very large resident and for the most part hostile Ukrainian population to contend with and I imagine this will be aided covertly by the West and in particular the US who has considerable and recent experience on the receiving end of this form of warfare in places such as Iraq.
    I can see Russia winning the battle but winning the war is less than certain . . IED’s and snipers are incredibly hard to counter when you don’t have the local population onside and you are using young conscripts who largely don’t want to be there in the first place.

    James Brown is also tired Gen X interested in international politics and has a masters degree in defence studies (before the 6 kids who just won’t listen / the mortgage / living in a world with nuclear power plants on fire).

    • thanks. The unrelenting propaganda makes me doubt everything i hear see on western media. Got a couple of questions if you don’t mind?
      First do you think the conquest of Ukraine entire is the objective or is it a distraction from operations along the coast? As i understand it Ukraine can be roughly divided into 2 demographics , west Ukraine which leans towards the west and eastern Ukraine which tends towards Russia and the Russians know it so what value in taking Ukraine entire and having to fight the subsequent guerilla war? Wouldn’t it be more sensible to take traditionally friendly areas establish a firm border tell Ukrainians this is ours now cease hostile operations or suffer the consequences. And now every one knows they mean it.
      And i say distraction because having suffered calamitous casualties from ferociously courageous Ukrainian defense coupled with fuel shortages from inept Russian planning alongside mechanical breakdowns from typically unreliable Russian vehicles not to mention low morale from conscripts being forced to eat their socks to survive it is a distraction isn’t it?
      Doesn’t this force Ukraine to keep forces in Kiev to oppose the “stalled” Russians and prevent reinforcement to encircled Ukrainian forces elsewhere?
      Furthermore having finally established local air superiority to polish borders doesn’t this mean that any Ukrainian troop movements will suffer an Iraqi highway of death moment ?
      Now I’m not saying they won’t besiege Kiev I dunno I’m an arm-chair general but surely creating a Crimean corridor would be an axiomatic strategic objective wouldn’t it, not a “consolation” prize as inferred by Mr Morgan .
      Anyhow that’s my main question and i would appreciate an educated opinion. thanks

    • According to the pictures in it did not hit the reactors. This war is terrible, it evokes back the feelings we experienced in Czechoslovakia in 1968, all world was with us but that time no-one helped and 20 years of deep depression began.

  2. Russians are an inbred, struggling people who have achieved bugger all except diesel submarines, ladas, potted roads, average tanks, and ?

  3. zelensky and his Government needs to be evacuated because of the importance of his leadership. If he gets caught the Russians will consider the Ukraine has fallen. He must be kept safe. A hard decision when considering his effect on morale . I believe guerrilla warfare as in Afghanistan and Vietnam could be the answer. Many Russians could be eliminated this way. Ukrainians Very courageous people.

  4. Russia is in its ascendancy. They will prevail. However, if the EU, Nato up the anti by getting involved or bringing in hired militia like Eric Princes Blackwater. Things may take a turn for the worse.

    In steps China. They know that they’re the next target. They’ll start applying pressure on the 120+ countries they have contracts and investments with. They’ll also let the dog, Rocket Man off the chain.

    They will start making noises in the UN about the other wars, Yemen, Syria, Palestine, North Africa to highlight the west’s hypocrisy.

    When this happens. The US, Biden and the DemNeoCons will piss their pants because they’ll have to go back to the people in the US to seek permission to put boots on the ground. And then they’ll be fucked.


    • Can’t find the link quickly but yesterday I was reading probably in Global research and article that claimed Blackwater was already donkey deep in the Ukraine attacks against Donbass separatists. Watching on GR again an ex South front vid on progress it seems Russia has surrounded and isolated the forces that were attacking the Donbass. It will be very interesting to see how many US mercenaries they have snared.
      I think Russia has a very detailed plan of action with very specific objectives that they are implementing exactly as planned. I doubt very much that it involves getting rid of Zelenskyy. He was elected by a large majority who hoped he would normalise relations wit Russia and I think that is what he would love to do if he was allowed. In the end I expect that is what will happen but dealing with the neo nazi component of both the govt. and the military will be a problem. Perhaps Putin’s plan is to kill or capture the military branch of that group at least and draw their teeth. They will be just as antagonistic toward the many ethnic Russians in Ukraine as those in Donbass or Russia. Nazi-ism is about ethnic cleansing.
      D J S

    • EX SAS soldiers are already in Ukraine you can bet that there will also be ex delta and Usa special forces and UK and Usa paratroopers as well. So the Russians won’t have it easy. They may have taken Kherson but it is early days yet. That piece of news came off a news article I read two days ago.

      • nor will the paid mercenaries if captured, the russians tend to take a dim view of outside terrorists.

  5. Evidently their Rocket Technology was pretty good, with the fall of the Soviet Union a lot of their top rocket scientists were picked up by North Korea and have assisted them with their Rocket Missile Launch Programs.

  6. Any comment on the cauldron situation in Eastern Ukraine where the pincer movement by the Russian and separatist forces is all but complete.Thus containing up to 50,000 Ukrainian troops.
    Happened back in 2015 also , which led to Poroshenko being forced to face reality, and signing the Minsk accord
    Check out the maps

  7. The United States and Ukraine were the only two countries to vote against a UN Resolution condemning Nazism.

  8. There is currently censorship of all information channels which don’t support the anti-Russian narrative, including a ban on those posting actual facts and images which debunk propaganda and report the truth. The slightest hint of dissent will have you pulled from social media but American lawmakers can go on public record and openly call for the assassination of a world leader.

    • Graham would probably be given a custodial sentence for threatening to kill here in New Zealand, locked away for seven years (plus seven days for bad behaviour) and good riddance to.

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