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A Bridge Too Close: defending the road to Odesa

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Mykolaiv, 10 March 2022
by Askold Krushelnycky
Mykolaiv is all that stands between the Russian invaders and the historic Black Sea port of Odesa. Askold Krushelnycky reports from the frontline that protects this cultural and historic gem as yet more unimaginably brave Ukrainians prepare for battle. Stalin said that governing Poland was like trying to ride a cow. A rather more painful analogy is necessary for Ukraine: should the Russian invasion succeed, Comrade Putin will find he his boa constrictor state has swallowed a porcupine.
Every hour and day Ukrainians hold out against the Russian invasion increases the pressure on Western leaders to increase military support for Ukraine. Atrocities like the destruction of the maternity hospital in Mariupol increase the world’s condemnation of the psychopathic Kremlin. The pressure is not compelling them yet to use their own forces directly against Moscow but certainly building momentum to provide fighter planes so Ukrainian pilots can destroy Russians in the skies and their armoured columns stuck on the ground.
Now an array of fearful threats that seem out of a science fiction horror movie are unfolding. The Chernobyl nuclear station, captured by Russians early in the war, has been cut off from electricity supplies needed to keep the reactor rods that exploded in 1986 cool to prevent a meltdown. The station’s own emergency generators have fuel for only 48 hours.
US intelligence has been unerringly accurate about Russian plans in Ukraine, including false flag operations: Moscow attacks Ukrainian civilians and the Kremlin predictably lays the blame on Ukraine. Now Washington is warning that the Russian Fuhrer Vladimir Putin has given the go-ahead to use chemical and biological weapons which, if used, will leave a long-lasting, fatal and indelible stamp.
It is a cliche that war brings out the best in people as well as the worst. But cliches are cliches because they’re mostly true and I met many of those best in Mykolaiv yesterday. It’s a city most of the world didn’t know about a few days ago and has become yet another emblem of Ukraine’s determination to fight against all the odds.
I walked in over a mile-long bridge that has been prepared by Ukrainian sappers to be blown up if the Russians look as if they might take it and get an open road to Odesa, 80 miles to the west. The driver of the car that brought me from Odesa along a road skirting the Black Sea, wouldn’t drive across the river for fear of being stuck on the other side if the Ukrainians blew it sky-high.
The entire day was punctuated by shelling and both sides were using rockets, which flew overhead, their engines sounding like big jets labouring to stay in the air, which they didn’t for long, landing with explosions that echoed around the city, ricocheting off its many high rise buildings.
I was privileged to meet tens of the “ordinary people” who are all extraordinary men and women refusing to flee the Russian bombardment and are helping in multiple ways to bolster their city’s defences. I met the charismatic governor of Mykolaiv region, who has become known throughout Ukraine for his inspiring and humorous video reports on social media. I also met a senior Ukrainian general and a Ukrainian MP who is also a special forces colonel. 

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