The Ukrainians are still celebrating their victory in driving the Russians out of Kherson, and for good reason. Say what you will about the Ukrainian government and its rather sketchy claim to holding democratic principles, but the people of Ukraine have fought valiantly. And retaking Kherson was a significant military victory. But what they’ve found left behind after the Russians fled in a disorganized withdrawal has been horrific. Evidence of mass killings, torture, and other atrocities is being revealed. Another concern is the possibility that local collaborators and foreign agents of Russia’s security and intelligence services may have remained in the area to collect information and feed it back to their Russian handlers.
Finding such moles may have become quite a bit easier this week, however. As Lt. Tim McMillan reports at Debrief Media, the Ukrainians have located a trove of classified documents that were left behind by Russia’s Federal Security Service, FSB, in their rush to vacate the area. And those documents have turned out to contain many names of people who were working with the Russians during the occupation. They also contain evidence of additional war crimes. This was a major error by the FSB and the Security Services of Ukraine (SBU) is taking full advantage of it.
According to SBU, documents detail the system FSB was using for local collaborators to provide “tips” to Russian authorities on pro-Ukrainian citizens, particularly the activities of local resistance groups in the Kherson region.
Among the discarded paperwork were personal files of Russian agents, reports on FSB activities, and protocols for searching local residences were also reportedly discovered.
“Documented facts of abduction and torture of the victims, as well as the looting of their homes under the guise of conducting ‘searches’ were also revealed,” according to SBU officials.
The trove of documents was reportedly discovered in a garage in the Kherson area. They appear to have been stored by an FSB “temporary operational group” called “VOG-8. One of McMillan’s sources pointed out that the SBU is exercising caution in case the documents are fake and were intentionally left behind to mislead the Ukrainians, though that seems unlikely.
While this represents a significant win for the Ukrainian forces, questions still remain as to how long the situation will hold as it is today. There are still reports circulating that suggest Russia is preparing for another winter campaign and a surge of troops back into the region. It’s unclear where Putin would find the troops and equipment to pull that off at this point, but you never know.
Even if there is no new winter campaign on the way, it’s also been noted that winter itself may prove to be a formidable enemy and undermine recent Ukrainian successes. Much of the country remains without power, food, heat, or running water. Russia continues to shell Ukraine’s energy infrastructure on a daily basis. Putin may not need to win a major military expedition if he can essentially starve many of the Ukrainians out and/or wait for them to freeze to death.
The United States and our allies can keep sending weapons and ammunition to Ukraine for the foreseeable future, but if the people can’t be fed and kept warm over the winter, it might not matter. I’m afraid that this story is far from over and if you’re currently doing an end-zone dance and celebrating Ukraine’s victory over the Russian forces, it may sadly be a bit premature.