Ukraine Update: Russian Units Have Their Back to The Wall

Published September 19th, 2022 - 04:08 GMT
Ukraine forces on the attack
Ukrainian forces attacked an ammunition depot in Kherson, killing multiple Russian troops. (AFP File Photo).

* By Dr Rene Tebel

In early March, it was the Russian glimmer of hope in an attack that had been screwed up from the start: the capture without a fight of Kherson, the capital of the Ukrainian oblast of the same name. In a short time, the Russian army managed to capture the entire oblast except for outlying areas north of the Dnieper River, while the attack on Mykolaiv and Kryvyi Rih failed.

Despite numerous local Ukrainian counterattacks, the shelling of Kherson airport, and the fact that the Ukrainian army was able to capture a valuable bridgehead near Andriivka and Lozove on the southern bank of the Inhulets in July, the front remained stable until the end of June.

This balance changed dramatically, especially with the delivery of the M142 HIMARS, the first of what is now a total of three multiple rocket launcher systems. With their deployment, Ukraine has since had, in the delivered version, a weapon with a relatively long range of about 80 kilometers and impressive precession, which, through a clever strategy, cannot be intercepted by Russian air defense systems such as the S-300 and S-400 easily.

The unpleasant consequence for the Russian armed forces is that their troop concentrations, ammunition depots, weapons stores, supply lines, barracks, command posts, bases and fortresses in the part of Kherson oblast north of the Dnieper River can be shelled at will by the Ukrainian army. However, the Russian army lacks the ability to move into the Hinterland in this section of the front to escape the radius of action of the missiles. 

This fatal situation worsened primarily because in the second half of July the Ukrainians also increasingly began to systematically render the bridges over the river unusable for heavy equipment. The first to be affected was the 1.4 km Antonivskyi road bridge, followed by the railroad bridge some 5 km to the east and finally the road over the Nova Kakhovka dam.

As a result, Russian units north of the Dnieper River literally have their backs to the wall, with the meager option of makeshift and inadequate supplies via ferries and pontoon bridges.

In response, the Russian army massed troops in August and increased the number of personnel defending the front line to between 20 and 35,000 without being able to address the root cause. Ukrainian fire control continues to prevent the restoration of Russian supply routes. Convoys attempting to cross damaged bridges become easy targets for multiple rocket launchers, artillery, or air strikes due to aerial reconnaissance.

In addition, since the end of August, the Ukrainian army has been exerting pressure on Russian units from three axes, tying up and wearing down Russian forces and also firing their increasingly scarce ammunition.

This approach is showing its successes, with the Pivden (South) Operational Command reporting on September 12 the capture of 500 square kilometers territory, the destruction of 122 tanks, and the advance of the front line up to 12 kilometers since the end of August.

Although there is always a "gray zone" in contested areas, where it is not clear which warring party has the upper hand, the axes of attack of Ukrainian forces can be clearly identified. In the northeast on the oblast border with Dnipropetrovsk, the Ukrainians were able to capture Vysokopillar, Novovonesenske, and Liubymivka between September 4 and 6. The strategically important Arkhanhelske appears to be contested.

The Ukrainian army probably succeeded in making the greatest advance in depth in the area of the bridgehead over the Inhulets, where about a third of the width of the area between the Inhulets and the Dnieper was regained, with such localities as Sukhyi Stavok, Kostromka and Biziemme.

The third important axis of attack runs in the southwest of the area. In a gray zone here are already Oleksandrivka and Kyselivka, just a few kilometers from the capital Kherson.

Even though the fighting still rages fiercely and contradictory news circulates about the supply situation and the morale of the Russian troops, one thing is clear: The Russian positions on the right side of the Dnieper cannot be held by Moscow in the long run in the current situation.

*The author is the Editor of the Tebel Report in Austria. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Al Bawaba News. 

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