For two weeks since the start of their invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces have been trying to advance towards Odessa, the main port on the Black Sea, an important strategic objective.
If Russia occupied the city, it would control the entire coast of Ukraine, essentially cutting off the south from the rest of the country and denying access to the sea.
But to get to Odessa, the Russians must pass through Mykolaiv.
The bombing of the city is intensifying, as a missile recently fell, killing 10 soldiers and wounding dozens of others at a military base in Mykolaiv, according to the American Foreign Policy magazine.
The magazine conveys the atmosphere of war in the city, where Russian missiles and Ukrainian air defenses turn the night sky orange, and where the remaining civilians struggle to protect themselves by fortifying windows and sheltering for fear of bombing.
Roads were cut off between a number of the city’s neighborhoods due to the continuous attacks, according to the magazine.
She says the sirens in the city can hardly be silenced.
It quoted Ukrainian soldiers and officers as saying they were afraid, but were determined to fight until “victory”.
Odessa, an hour’s drive to the west, relies on Mykolaev to defend it, but the reality is tough in the city.
“There are a lot of open fields and flatlands, so if the Russians clash with the Ukrainian defenders, they may try to outflank them rather than fight them,” Gustav Grisl, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, says.
Some Russian forces are trying to bypass Mykolaev, while others are engaged in active combat in the city.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces are trying to prevent the Russians from crossing the main river that divides Mykolaiv, one of the last major obstacles on Russia’s road to Odessa.
While medics work relentlessly in the city, the recent Russian bombing of a maternity hospital makes them warn of a similar bombing.
Some of the wounded told the magazine that they were bombed with Russian cluster bombs, as reports abound about Russia’s use of internationally prohibited munitions in its war on Ukraine.
Nevertheless, the magazine says, “The will to fight is clear, and the defenders are steadfastly steadfast.”