The Ukrainian operation to recapture Kherson, in the south of the country, is “gaining momentum”, British intelligence reported in its latest update on Wednesday. The kyiv Army has continued to fight back, targeting again this week a key bridge over the Dnieper River, which runs through the country.
Strategically located on the western bank of that river and north of the Crimean peninsula, the city of Kherson, capital of the homonymous region, fell into Russian hands in the first days of the invasion launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 24 December. february. It is seen as a vital enclave for control of southern Ukraine and kyiv, which has long been preparing the ground for a wide-ranging counteroffensive in the south, has been clear that its goal is to recapture it. According to the UK, the city is now “almost isolated” from the other occupied territories.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich wrote on his Telegram channel on Wednesday that “the operation to liberate Kherson, one could say, has already begun.” The kyiv forces, he said, plan to isolate Russian troops – “without ammunition depots, fuel, communications and command” – and leave them three options, “withdraw (if possible), surrender or be destroyed”.
“And we have a positive experience. Thus we eliminated the Russian Army from kyiv, Chernigov and Sumy. Now we have learned to fight even better,” says Arestovich.
However, senior Ukrainian figures are warning that Moscow is shifting its forces to defend the southern area. Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov explained this Wednesday that Russia is deploying additional forces in particular in the Kherson region, most of which has been occupied since early March.
According to the country’s media, Danilov preferred to be “cautious” when evaluating the schedule for the possible recovery of the territories. “I would like it to be much faster. It is a war,” he said. “The enemy is now concentrating the maximum number of forces precisely in the direction of Kherson.”
On his Telegram channel, Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-imposed administration in the occupied region, has claimed that “all stories about successful counter-offensives” by Ukraine there “are pure lies.”
a key bridge
On the night of Tuesday to Wednesday, Ukrainian forces fired on the Antoniv Bridge over the Dnieper River near Kherson, which measures 1,000 meters and is considered essential for Moscow to supply its forces. used the Himars missile launcher system supplied by the US, which, according to sources western military citing the BBC, it left the crossing “completely unusable”.
It was the third attack on the Antoniv bridge, controlled by Russia, in ten days, as explained in their latest report by analysts at the thinktank Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW). “Images and footage from the aftermath of the attack show damage across the full width of the vehicular bridge, which has likely rendered the bridge unusable.” Russian authorities had said they would use pontoon bridges and ferries to get their forces across the river.
According to British intelligence, Russian units are stationed on the west bank of the Dnieper River and “now appear very vulnerable.” The UK Defense Ministry notes that Ukraine has used “its new long-range artillery to damage at least three of the bridges across the Dnieper River that Russia relies on to supply areas under its control.” He also believes it very likely that the forces have established a bridgehead [fortificación armada] south of the Ingulets River, a tributary of the Dnieper, “which forms the northern boundary of Russian-occupied Kherson.”
In his late-night speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Antoniv Bridge and other crossings in the region will be rebuilt. “We are doing everything possible so that the occupiers do not have any logistical opportunity on our land. Whatever their plans, we’ll thwart them. And we will liberate our territory with military, diplomatic and all other available means until we reach the legal borders of Ukraine.”
In the opinion of the United Kingdom, the loss of the city, which they define as the “politically most important” population center occupied by Moscow’s troops, “would seriously undermine Russia’s attempts to present the occupation as a success.”
Speaking to the BBC this morning, Jack Watling of the defense think tank Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) has said that the Ukrainians “are now eating the territory that the Russians control” in Kherson, but it remains to be seen if kyiv can take the city in its entirety. “But they are definitely threatening the Russians.”
He also assures that they are observing how new Russian units are mobilized and introduced into the country. “Some of them are being pushed south, around Crimea. The question is: are they going to be used to reinforce Kherson and try to stop what the Ukrainians are doing, or are they going to be pushed elsewhere to try to seize the initiative and force the Ukrainians back on the defensive?”
“The next few weeks are crucial”
In the past week, Guardian reported that the war in Ukraine may be headed for its bloodiest phaseas the expected counter-offensive by kyiv forces in the south results in a “massive battle” and has to overcome increasingly entrenched Russian troops.
A senior US Pentagon official told reporters on Friday that the Ukrainians are making progress, “taking over portions of towns, and have really given the Russians a good fight on the ground.” The Ukrainian Army has assured this Thursday that they have recovered three villages in the region, pick up the Kyiv Independent.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated last week that the geographical objectives of the “special military operation”, the euphemism with which Moscow refers to its invasion, have changed and are no longer in the east, but also in the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhia, which are already partially occupied by Putin’s Army.
As reported a few days ago the Russian news agency Tass, the Kherson occupation authorities have advanced their plans to hold a referendum on joining Russia, and the authorities have formed an electoral committee to prepare for it. The kyiv government has been warning of these intentions for some time.
“We have a tremendous sense of urgency, together with the Ukrainians and our allies, regarding both the battle in Donbas and the fate of Kherson and southern Ukraine,” the Pentagon representative told reporters last Friday. . “We want to make sure that we continue to support the Ukrainians in maintaining their access to the Black Sea. And we are very alarmed by Russian plans to potentially annex more territory. So there is a great sense of urgency.”
This weekend, President Zelensky met with a delegation from the US House of Representatives. In an interview with Political, Democratic congressman Adam Smith explained that the Ukrainian authorities want to reach a peace agreement with the Russians, but first they must recover the lands they have captured, particularly in the south. “We have to help them now as much as possible. The next three to six weeks are crucial,” he said, conveying the main message he heard from Zelensky and others. According to the outlet, as winter approaches, colder temperatures and extreme conditions may slow the fighting down to a war of attrition.