General Dmytro Marchenko told in an interview why Russia is moving troops to the south, why the occupiers would not hold a referendum in Kherson on September 11, and what Ukraine needs to celebrate its victory next spring. Maj. Gen. Dmytro Marchenko was in charge of the defense of the Mykolaiv region until April. Then, in the first weeks of a full-scale war, the occupiers tried to encircle the regional center, but their first attempt suffered a crushing failure.
Translation kindly provided by Volodymyr: https://twitter.com/VolodyaTretyak
Original text in Ukrainian:
Interviewer (I): Until April, you were in charge of the defense of the Mykolaiv region. What tasks do you have now in the area – from what you can tell?
Gen. Marchenko (M): I can’t tell you anything. I help to get a victory.
(I): Over the weekend, a two-day curfew was imposed in Mykolaiv. As officially reported, it aimed to identify collaborators. What were the results?
(M): We conducted quite effective measures, and we “cleaned up” the city. We detected more than 400 offenders; about two dozen were collaborators, drug dealers, and people on the wanted list. This weekend was probably the quietest in the history of Mykolaiv.
(I): There is open information that the occupants have been pulling forces to the south – to the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions – for several weeks. Is it for some serious offensive operation or local attacks?
(M): This is probably to make it more convenient for us to destroy them in a pile. There is information that they are reinforcing the troops they already had there. They understand that Ukraine is preparing for a counteroffensive operation, so they are strengthening their groups there, moving battalion tactical groups. But this will not help them much.
Our Southern Command is now very successful in artillery strikes against enemy targets. In the last week, they destroyed more than ten ammunition depots and command posts. Therefore, believe me, the situation is not as bad as everyone thinks.
(I): Do you know approximately how many occupant troops there are in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions?
(M): They say about 25 battalion tactical groups. But I’ll tell you honestly – no one has seen exactly how many there are. Anyway, no one is afraid of them here, and no one will run away from them. We are ready to meet them and fight.
(I): At the moment, they are concentrating their forces to the south, transferring them from the Izyum direction, from Liman, where they were going to attack Sloviansk. And, as they declared, the capture of Donbas was their number one priority. Am I correct in assuming that they are sacrificing the intensity of their offensive in the east because they felt threatened by us in the south?
(M): The way I see it, they want to have some success somewhere. They don’t have any success in the east or south right now, not anywhere. I think they want to try to take over part of the south, and if they succeed, they will prioritize it.
(I): The Times recently wrote that the occupiers have allegedly brought in 25,000 troops to encircle Nikolaev. We also heard other versions about their possible plans in the south. For example, the first version is that they want to move toward Kryvyy Rih and further surround Zaporizhzhya. The second version is that they want to move towards Kryvyy Rih and then turn to the Mykolaiv region and possibly move towards Voznesensk. The third version is that they want to advance from the Kherson district to the Mykolaiv region and Mykolaiv. What is their plan?
(M): This is all just speculation as to what they might do. As I see it, they will try to advance in two directions – the Nikolaev direction and the Kryvyi Rih direction. If they manage to break through at least in one direction, then they will transfer the rest of the forces there and make it a priority.
(I): If we talk about Kryvyi Rih, it’s a very long city. It’s hard to see how the Russian army can surround or encircle it. So why would they want to move there? Or do they want to move in the Kryvyi Rih direction to reach the northern administrative borders of the Kherson region?
(M): No, I understand that they have a different plan. They want to capture Kryvyi Rih to create a bridgehead for an attack on Voznesensk and Yuzhnoukrainsk. Then they can try to take Mykolaiv in a ring.
They have already tried to take Mykolaiv, but they failed, so now they want to bypass it, take it in a ring and then reduce this ring. So basically, the same way they did with Mariupol. But I think their plans will collapse as soon as they start offensive actions.
(I): Is the increased intensity of shelling in Mykolaiv some element of their preparation for an offensive, or is it solely for terror and intimidation of the locals?
(M): I would say that the intensity, on the contrary, has decreased. Today (the conversation took place on August 9, – remark) was the first quiet night. The South Command, in addition to many ammunition depots and command posts, very aptly struck an entire S-300 division. So they are not doing as well as they may seem.
(I):Let’s imagine: there is no way they can approach and surround Mykolaiv, so they will try to break through to the Odesa Oblast through Voznesensk. Is this a realistic scenario, and how significant is the risk that they will manage to break into Odesa Oblast?
(M): Yes, that was in their original plans. But let’s say they missed their chance to do so back in March. So now it will be complicated for them; they will suffer heavy losses of personnel and equipment. They are already morally very frazzled and want to flee. From their conversations, we hear that they have already started looking for air mattresses and rubber boats instead of washing machines and microwave ovens. They are getting ready to flee behind the Dnipro River.
Part 2 begins here:
(I): What is the situation with these key crossings over the Dnipro? As far as I understand, we are “perforating” the bridge in Daryivka, the Antonovsky road bridge, too. What about the Antonovsky railway bridge?
(M): It was also damaged. RU army tried to repair the Antonovski automobile bridge and carried out repair work there. But we struck it again the day before yesterday, so nothing worked out for them. They made a ferry crossing to take our eyes off the Antonovsky Bridge repair, and they’ve been using this mobile ferry crossing little by little. They routinely put military equipment and civilians there, so we hit it. But so that you understand, it takes roughly three hours to move one vehicle.
(I): And what about the bridge on the dam across the Kakhovka reservoir? What to do there, because it is a critical engineering structure, and it seems to me that to damage it is dangerous?
(M): This bridge has already been hit. But it is challenging to shoot it because there are critical facilities there. If we hit them, we could hit the dam gates. So it’s an exceptional job. But I think this bridge will soon be damaged enough that they can’t move their reserves over it. As soon as the reserves are cut off – “Welcome to Ukraine”: we will beat them and drive them out.
(he said the phrase in English – remark)
(I): As you said, the forces they are transferring to the southern regions are primarily to the Kryvyi Rih and Mykolayiv directions. Can they start moving in parallel in the Zaporizhzhya region and pressurize along the Vasilievka-Gulyaypole line?
(M): The terrain there is difficult, so developing offensive actions in the Zaporizhzhya direction is not very profitable; therefore, they will attack in the Mykolayiv and Kryvyi Rih directions.
(I): The question that many ask for the six months: How did the occupants advance so rapidly in the south at the beginning?
(M): It is a painful issue. I have my thoughts on it. But for the time being, I cannot give them out. I want to assure you that a study of this issue is already underway. And I think we will soon know why they reached Kherson so quickly.
(I): In the Zaporizhzhia region, Gauleiter Balitsky has already signed an “order” to hold a “referendum.” Do you know if something like this is planned in the Kherson region?
(M): Their FSB service members are discussing that they can not use the same scenario in Kherson as they did in Crimea. They already recognize this as a fact. And they are already preparing for some other events because this particular scenario does not work for them. The people of Kherson are very pro-Ukrainian and resist. They do not give them a chance to implement this scenario with the “referendum” and the “Russian world.” Therefore, I think in Kherson, the referendum scenario will definitely not succeed.
(I): So they will hardly be able to hold it in Kherson on September 11?
(M): I am 100% sure that they will not.
(I): Do you know the fate of the kidnapped mayor of Kherson, Igor Kolykhayev?
(M): No, unfortunately, I do not know, I only know that he is in captivity.
(I): You managed to clear most of the territory of the Mykolaiv region, where the occupants entered. But there is still a part of the territory near the administrative border of Kherson – the Snigirevka area. It remains under the temporary control of the enemy. As I understand it, it is a critical junction for the occupants because two roads go from there – to Nova Kakhovka and Kherson.
(M): Yes, there is a strategically important junction there. That’s why RU forces are holding this Snegirivka. But unfortunately, there are civilians there, so we cannot conduct such a special operation to liberate this town because we don’t want civilians to suffer.
(I): What about Snigirevka, then?
(M): I think we will take them in a ring, and they will run away.
(I): Residents of the Kherson region and Kherson are waiting for the arrival of our Armed Forces. Can you operate with any timeline as to when our offensive operation in the Kherson region will begin?
(M): Unfortunately, I can’t tell you any timeline or date. But I would like to say the people of Kherson – let them be patient for a while. It will not be as long as everyone expects. It will be quick. Let them hold out a little longer. We do not forget about them. No one gives up on their people. We will come to their aid, but let them wait a little longer. They will soon see and hear everything.
(I): Can we liberate Crimea militarily?
(M): Yes. We will liberate it militarily. No one has given up on it. Crimea is Ukraine; it’s our land. Our people are there, who are still forced to live under occupation. No one gave Russia the right to come, take a piece of land and say, “this is mine. We will reclaim Crimea, just as we will reclaim Kherson, Lugansk, and Donetsk.
(I): Is it necessary to destroy the Crimean bridge to do so?
(M): Yes, this is a necessary measure to deprive them of the ability to provide reserves and reinforce their troops from Russian territory.
(I): What military objectives are achievable for us by the end of this year? I am not in a hurry to say for sure that this will or will not happen – I mean, what territories can we physically de-occupy by the end of the year?
(M): Kherson – 100%. That is the liberation of Kherson and the end of the active phase of the war, and then there will be some more local military actions. But by the end of the year, we must finish the main phase of this war.
(I): How critical is our arms shortage now? What kind of weapons do we lack for counteroffensive and offensive operations and the liberation of our territories?
(M): Unfortunately, the military assistance our Western partners have promised us is provided in small batches, making it very difficult for us to conduct offensive operations. So I think that as soon as we receive the complete package of this assistance, our counteroffensive actions will be swift.
(I): Can Ukraine end the war through negotiations, making certain compromises, or will everything be decided exclusively on the battlefield until we reach the borders of 1991?
(M): We have already passed the point of no return after Irpen and Bucha. Any negotiations concerning the surrender of some of our territory – all the military, all the population understand that we can not do this categorically. If we do that, we will shift this war onto the shoulders of our children.
If we leave the enemy even a piece of land, he will come back home, draw some conclusions and attack again in six or eight years. So we need to defend all the territory. We need to take control of Ukraine’s borders and not leave them a single piece of our land.
(I): How long do you think this war can go on?
(M): I wouldn’t want to make predictions. But if we have the amount of weaponry that was promised to us, that we need, then I think next spring, we will be celebrating victory.