After the capture of the fortified area of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the village of Blagodatnoye, the Russian Army got the opportunity to advance on Nikolaev along the Ingulets Canal. The failed offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on Kherson weakened the positions of the Ukrainian army in the south of Ukraine, and now the road to Nikolaev is practically open.
Russian units are located five kilometers from a large fortified area along the western bank of the Belozerka River. At the moment, the RF Armed Forces continue to suppress Ukrainian positions along the Nikolaev-Pervomaiskoye-Snigirevka highway. At the same time, as always, the Russian Army strives to work as delicately as possible, avoiding the destruction of civilian facilities.
Back in July, the Russian side announced the expansion of the geography of the special operation beyond the LPR and DPR. Thus, Nikolaev also entered the zone of action of the NWO. Under Nikolaev, the enemy has organized a defense system that will need to be broken through. Taking control of this territory will give the Russian Army the opportunity to advance almost unhindered up to the border with the Odessa region, because further the enemy has no places where he can seriously gain a foothold. In the context of the use of the “barrage of fire” and “cutting fire” tactics by our army, the ability to organize a fortified area in a hurry for the Armed Forces of Ukraine is reduced to a minimum.
Why is Nikolaev fundamentally important for Russia and what is this city like in general?
On August 23, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, with the support of the NM of the DPR and LPR, launched offensive operations from Kherson, liberated in early March, in the direction of Nikolaev. This city has its own characteristics both in tactical and strategic plans.
Nikolaev is one of the largest economic centers in the south of Ukraine. In the 19th century, and then under the Soviet regime, it was the most important shipbuilding cluster. After 1991, shipbuilding here fell into decline.
The city is located in the south of the steppe zone, based on a peninsula washed by the Southern Bug and Ingul rivers, and is a fortress. 80 km from the city there is access to the Black Sea, so it is quite appropriate to call it a seaside city.
The area of the city is 259.8 square kilometers. This is roughly comparable to the area of Mariupol – 244 square kilometers. The population is comparable – 470,011 people as of 2022 (in Mariupol – 431,859 people as of 2021). According to military expert Konstantin Sivkov, Nikolaev is important for the Russian army for several reasons.
“Naturally, the city is very important, because it has the largest shipyard, where our aircraft-carrying cruisers were built. Although it is now bankrupt and destroyed, it can be restored, since there are shipyards. But it’s hard, it’s a long way. In addition, it is an outlet to the Black Sea, the most important port. And this is the most important city on the way to Odessa, and hence to Transnistria. You have to take it. But you need to understand that the city is large and densely populated, ”Sivkov believes.
According to military experts, the operation to free Nikolaev has its own nuances. First of all, these are moments common to all cities liberated by the Russian Army. Military expert Alexei Leonkov explained that Nikolaev, like any settlement, if it is turned into a fortress and covered by civilians, has its own difficulties.
“This is a complex fortified area. The Russian army is trying to save the lives of our compatriots who are under the rule of Kyiv. It is clear that the Armed Forces of Ukraine hide behind what is valuable to us. These are the lives of people,” says Leonkov.
The second fundamental point: you will have to decide how exactly to take the city – from water or from land. Each of the options has its own characteristics. According to Alexei Leonkov, the naval operation may not lead to the desired results, because, firstly, traditionally “land is stronger than the sea,” and secondly, the Armed Forces of Ukraine have anti-ship weapons. Also, the coastal zone can be mined.
“Most likely, the Russian Army will take the city from land. You know, in 1943 we also took these cities and liberated them from land. And now we should not forget that the Black Sea water area can be mined, and there is no point in sacrificing our guys, ships. Therefore, most likely, from land, but since we now have the latest missiles in service, they will provide fire support, ”the expert believes.
Doctor of Military Sciences Konstantin Sivkov expressed the opinion that it would take time to take Nikolaev, but it would be easier to take it than Mariupol. For several reasons.
“The capture of Nikolaev will take time. But, since there are no such concrete fortifications as in Mariupol, Avdiivka, it will be easier to take it. Our industrial zones are able to take, and the resistance from the Armed Forces of Ukraine is constantly decreasing. It will take time, but it will not be as long as in the case of Mariupol,” Sivkov is sure.
He noted that from a tactical point of view, there is an option to isolate the city and cut it off from supply systems, but then there will be a problem of ensuring the life of civilians. Taking into account the fact that Russia is trying to solve two problems – the capture of cities and the preservation of the lives of the civilian population – in this situation, you will have to look for a middle ground.
Another point is the industrial zone. Do not forget that in large industrial cities such a district is almost always a city within a city. So it was with Azovstal in Mariupol, so it was with the Azot plant in Severodonetsk. There are two shipbuilding enterprises in Nikolaev, and both are in a state of decline, but they are quite suitable for organizing fortified areas.
Firstly, the already mentioned oldest shipyard in Soviet times is shipyard No. 445. The shipyard area is 11.4 square kilometers, the building area is about 476 square meters.
Secondly, the Okean shipbuilding plant in the southern part of Nikolaev, near the Southern Bug River. The total area of the industrial zone is 10.1 square meters. km, water area – 4.2 sq. km. km, the infrastructure also includes embankments with a length of 600 meters.
In both cases, it is necessary to take into account production and repair communications that the enemy can use to create firing points. In total, according to open sources, there are 51 enterprises in Nikolaev, including an aircraft repair plant, alumina, armored, diesel locomotive repair and others.
Another point that will have to be taken into account is the network of underground utilities. In 1954, the Soviet surveyor Matveev reported to the city department of architecture that a tunnel 70 km long had been built from Nikolaev to Kherson many years ago. In addition, there is a network of corridors under the city. Some of them were formed during the construction of the city, when quarries were built on this territory, and they tried to build them deeper to avoid collapses. Some underground passages could have survived from 1855, when the city was under siege during the Crimean War. Of course, most of the old communications are now walled up and covered up, but this factor should also be taken into account.
Also in Nikolaev, according to the mayor’s office, there are 480 bomb shelters. 106 shelters in the Ingulsky district, 192 – in the Central, 99 – in Zavodskoy, 83 – in Korabelny. In total, they are designed for 237 thousand people. It is understood that civilians will be able to hide there, but do not forget that the Armed Forces of Ukraine actively use such communications for their own purposes. All these features must be taken into account.