The road to Kherson, scattered with burned-out tanks and vehicles, at one point stops being functional due to a collapsed bridge, requiring a hastily constructed dirt track. The postapocalyptic scenery around Ukraine’s recently liberated city is unsurprising, considering that until about a week ago this area of otherwise unremarkable countryside was among the most fiercely contested pieces of land on Earth. Almost every building on both sides of the road shows some sign of damage from the fighting. At least half of them are totally destroyed.
Every so often the desolated villages demonstrate signs of life — smoke from a chimney or sheets of plastic replacing smashed windows blown out by months of shelling.
In the exceptionally flat surrounding fields, numerous Russian 220mm rockets, fired in salvos of 16 from BM-27 Hurricane multiple rocket launchers, have embedded themselves in the earth, pointing skyward like lethal scarecrows. Depending on the exact munition fired, each rocket can scatter as many as 312 antipersonnel land mines or 30 cluster bombs, leaving the surrounding farmland saturated with unexploded ordnance that will likely take years, possibly decades, to fully clear. It’s a laborious and dangerous process that Ukrainian technicians had already begun. [Continue reading…]