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Holding On…

In the 5th Century BC, Chinese General, Military Strategist, Writer, and Philosopher Sun Tzu had mentioned a special tactic to fight against formidable opponents in his publication The Art of War. The Army of Russian Emperor Tsar Alexander I (December 23, 1777 – December 1, 1825) used this tactic when Napoleon Bonaparte (August 15, 1769 – May 5, 1821) invaded Russia in (June 24 – December 14) 1812. Soviet leader Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin (December 6, 1878 – March 5, 1953) adopted a similar strategy to prevent the aggression of Nazi Germany during the Second World War. In February 2022, the Ukrainian Army adopted the Scorched-earth policy to prevent the three-pronged attack by the Russian Forces.

The Scorched-earth policy is basically a military strategy, that has been used liberally in warfare from the olden days, as well as in the present Business and Corporate circle. It is aimed at making oneself less valuable, by destroying things that might be useful to the adversary. With possibly an eye of granting a pyrrhic victory of sorts to the victor: assets that could be used by the enemy may be targeted, which usually includes obvious weapons, transport vehicles, communication sites, and industrial resources, in short anything useful to the advancing enemy, including food stores and agricultural areas, water sources, and even the local people themselves, though the last has been banned under the 1977 Geneva Conventions. On the second and third day (February 25 and 26, 2022) of Russia’s military operation in the former Soviet Republic, the Armed Forces of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy adopted this policy.

As the notable historic examples of scorched-earth tactics include actions of the Scythians, the Armenians, the Greek, and the Roman in the days of yore, to the 6th Century treatise in Europe, the First Fitna in the Middle East, and the great Viking Invasion of England, leading to William Tecumseh Sherman‘s March to the Sea during the American Civil War, Kit Carson‘s subjugation of the American Navajo Indians, Lord Kitchener‘s advance against the Boers, and the setting on fire of 605 to 732 oil wells by retreating Iraqi military forces during the Gulf War, the ones that are mentioned more are the Russian Army’s strategies during the failed Swedish invasion (of Russia), the failed Napoleonic invasion (of Russia), the initial Soviet retreat commanded by Joseph Stalin during the German Army’s invasion during the Second World War, and Nazi Germany’s retreat on the Eastern Front.

A map detailing where Russian troops have struck around Ukraine

On the very first day of the operation on February 24 (2022), the Russian Forces took control of Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, and the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. They reached Kharkiv via Donetsk and Luhansk, the two Ukrainian cities that are declared as Independent States by President Putin. It may be noted that these two regions of eastern Ukraine, together, are called Donbass. From Kharkiv, the Russian Forces started marching towards Kiev. The Russian Tank Brigade, which had crossed the Belarusian border in the north, proceeded with the same objective after capturing the nuclear plant in Chernobyl late on February 24 night, and they almost reached the Ukrainian capital after crossing the River Dnieper.

The third centre of Russian aggression is the Crimean Peninsula, where Russia had established its control in 2014. A large number of Russian warships had already been deployed in the Black Sea. Russia also sent the Amphibious Assault Vehicles to the southern part of Ukraine in order to quickly land its troops especially in the coastal cities of Mariupol and Odessa. The purpose of the Russian troops, advancing from the south, was to reach Kiev via Kherson, fast.

Vitaly Skakun Volodymyrovich

In the face of a three-pronged attack, the Ukrainian Army started destroying all the Kiev-bound bridges and roads on several fronts on February 24. While retreating, the Ukrainian soldiers also destroyed their own camps. They made serious attempts to prevent the Russian troops from entering mainland Ukraine. In order to enter Ukraine from Crimea, one has to use the Henichesk Bridge. Vitaliy Skakun Volodimirovich, an engineer of the Ukrainian Marine Battalion, blew himself up over the bridge on February 25 when he saw the Russian Army moving forward through it. With this, he demolished the Henichesk Bridge so that the enemy tanks would not be able to move easily. Kiev announced that Volodimirovich, the deceased warrior, would be awarded the posthumous State Award for his bravery and sacrifice.

Watch: Ukrainian soldier blows himself up on bridge

The Scorched-earth policy had helped the Russians win battles against Napoleon and Hitler in the past. Now, Ukraine has adopted the same war strategy to fight against the Russian invaders.

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