Mykolaiv region, Ukraine – In its summer campaign to drive Russian forces out of the southern Kherson region, Ukrainian forces destroyed Russian command posts and ammunition depots, cut off supply lines with precision strikes on key bridges, and Sow terror among the cooperating officials by a series of car bombings, shootings, and at least one poisoning, Ukrainian officials said.
But in the sunny fields along the western border of the Kherson region, Ukrainian fighters who would be called upon to deliver the final blow in any successful effort to reclaim territory remain trapped in their trenches. The cuts to Russian supply lines have not yet undermined the overwhelming advantage of Moscow’s forces in artillery, ammunition and heavy weapons, making it difficult if not impossible for Ukrainian forces to move forward without suffering heavy losses.
Said a 33-year-old lieutenant with a call sign Ada, who leads an outpost for trenching in the neighboring Mykolaiv region, a few miles from the Russian lines in Kherson.
But he added: “We need the advantage in numbers, we need the advantage in heavy weapons. Unfortunately, this is a problem for us.”
Ukrainian officials say that although Ukrainian forces have not moved for weeks in Kherson, their artillery campaign appears to have paid off, slowing the flow of Russian weapons, equipment, and troops into the area. The use of high-precision weapons such as those supplied by America High Mobility Artillery Missile SystemUkrainian forces, or HIMARS, bombarded the three bridges on the vast Dnipro River connecting thousands of Russians to their supply lines in occupied Ukrainian lands east of the river.
Natalia Gominiuk, a spokeswoman for the Ukrainian army’s Southern Command, said the strikes had rendered these bridges “inoperable”. Over the weekend, Ukrainian forces launched another strike on the Antonevsky Bridge, the main supply artery in Kherson.
“We clearly understand that the occupiers are relying on those arteries to continue bringing in reserves, ammunition and military equipment,” said Ms. Gominiuk.
The question now is whether this pressure on Russia’s supply lines will be enough to cripple the fighting capacity of Russian forces and possibly force the Kremlin to order at least part of the force to withdraw from Kherson and return across the river. Several Ukrainian officials in the region said this week that some Russian field commanders had already begun moving their headquarters east of the river, although two senior Ukrainian military officials said there was no evidence for this.
The lieutenant said that a massive barrage of Russian strikes at the front inevitably killed a handful of Ada’s soldiers every day. A near-miss of a Grad missile the previous day had caused the grass around a bunker to char, and in the adjacent field, the back of another missile was visible protruding from the ground. Periodically, a low decibel rumble rumbled across the plains.
It’s the same across the roughly 50-mile Kherson Front, which cuts roughly from north to south through fertile fields. Ukraine’s military leaders and analysts say that any push forward would require a much larger number of troops and equipment than Ukraine currently has in the Kherson theater.
Meanwhile, Russia diverted its resources from fighting in eastern Donbass to reinforce its positions in the south.
Major General Dmytro Marchenko, the commander of Ukrainian forces in the region, recently acknowledged mounting frustration with the slow pace of Ukraine’s efforts to retake Kherson, but said he could not give a timetable for the start of major offensive operations.
“I want to tell the Kherson people to be a little patient – it will not be as much as everyone expects,” General Marchenko said in an interview last week with RBK Ukraine. “We have not forgotten about them, no one will abandon our people and we will come to help them, but they need to wait a little longer.”
O’Brien, said that if the Ukrainians could completely cut the bridges over the Dnipro River and keep them cut, the Kremlin would have no choice but to withdraw some troops or force Russian forces to fight with limited supplies and “hope to beat them.” Professor of Strategic Studies at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.
“If they had not built large warehouses in the West Bank, one would have thought that they would have major problems within weeks,” he said.