It’s been a week since the Army of Ukraine announced the start of a counteroffensive to regain ground on the southern front of the war, that is, on the kherson regionwhich fell almost entirely into Russian hands during the first days of the invasion ordered by Vladimir Putin last February.
The Ukrainian authorities have kept a almost total silence about the progress of his counteroffensive since then, either for security or to avoid unfavorable information. However, the first official information points to slight successes confirmed by international analysts, Western intelligence services and the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
The latter thinktank states that it has confirmed “independently” the “liberation” of at least one site in the region Donetsk and another in Kherson, a strategic enclave due to its access to the Black Sea and its communications with the occupied Crimea. Although Ukraine’s move has also served to ward off the specter of a referendum in the occupied region to integrate it into the Russian Federation.
However, experts warn in each update that these types of operations are not decided in the short term and that it is necessary to wait weeks or months to offer an accurate analysis. Analysts point to it being a prolonged wear campaign at a crucial moment in which Ukraine has more precision weapons provided by the Western allies, whom it must convince that the military and economic efforts to support its resistance are serving a purpose.
The counteroffensive has been overshadowed by growing fears of a nuclear disaster due to constant attacks around the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, region neighboring Kherson. Is about the largest and most powerful nuclear power plant in Europe, has been under Russian control for months and has had to disconnect its last working reactor due to the bombing of which Russia and Ukraine accuse each other. They have not stopped even with the visit of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has warned on numerous occasions of the danger of fighting in the area and has left a permanent surveillance mission at the plant.
Two villages recovered
Last Sunday, official Ukrainian sources began to speak openly about what is considered the first milestone of the campaign. The photograph of a Ukrainian soldier placing the national flag on the roof of a hospital has been used by kyiv to ensure that his troops have partially or fully recovered the area near Vysokopillia. It is a population of less than 4,000 inhabitants located more than 130 kilometers north of Jersón, the capital of the region, but located a few kilometers from the left bank of the dnieper riverwhich marks a decisive natural border for the success of the counteroffensive.
After this image sold as heroic, the president Volodymyr Zelensky He referred this Monday to the advance of his troops, although maintaining the secrecy that has been established. I won’t tell the details, but ukrainian flags are returning to the places where they should be by right“.
According to Zelensky and several of his advisers, in recent days the 42nd separate motorized infantry battalion of the Armed Forces of Ukraine would have “liberated two localities in the south” and another, also unspecified, on the Donbas front.
Are partial information, as the Ukrainian Defense Ministry has prohibited journalists from reporting from the front lines and has urged the press “not to question the actions of the command and not to serve as additional tools of Russian propaganda.” For his part, he ISW has confirmed at least two of these achievements cited by kyiv after analyzing satellite images, official information from both sides and publications on social networks.
Russia insists on failure
For its part, from Moscow they insist almost daily that the Ukrainian offensive has failed, although the Kremlin has been sending this message since the first day of the counteroffensive. The last statement in this sense has arrived this Monday by voice of Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the civil-military administration in the region. According to the Russian agency TASS, Stremousov speaks of 3,000 dead in the Ukrainian ranks from the start of the kickback.
The last time Moscow took stock of the situation on this front was on Friday and spoke of 330 Ukrainian soldiers. Russia and its lieutenants in the region have recognized fierce fighting and constant bombing on buildings of several cities in the region and on the capital, the only regional capital under Russian control. In fact, one of the bombardments verified by images on social networks with geolocation is that of the hotel Zateryanny Mir, last Saturday. It is a large complex considered “headquarters” of Russian troops and pro-Russian militias in the region, according to another spokesman for the Ukrainian Southern Command.
Приліт по комплексу Затєряний мір, що належить Володимиру Сальдо. В готелі мешкали російські силовики та місцеві колаборанти pic.twitter.com/z1tDcTqBfU
— МОСТ ХЕРСОН (@most_ks_ua) September 3, 2022
Russia annexation referendum suspended
Despite the failure that Moscow is trying to sell, the pro-Russian authorities of the new administration imposed in Kherson reported this Monday that postpone their plans to hold a referendum for its integration into Russia, as was done with Crimea in 2014.
The announcement has surprised for two reasons. The first, because it is openly recognized that the course of the counteroffensive is altering the situation in the zone. The second, because the progress of the organization of this referendum has never been clear beyond specific declarations in recent months. The latest references set it for autumn, but without specification.
“We have prepared for the vote. We wanted to organize the referendum as soon as possible, but due to current events, I think that for now we will make a parenthesis”, said again the pro-Russian deputy head of the Military-Civil Administration of the region, Kiril Stremousov , to Russian public television, collects EFE.
According to analysts, this postponement has also been influenced by the several assassinations of pro-Russian authorities in the region. Several bomb attacks or point-blank shootings are attributed to “partisans” who have nurtured a Ukrainian resistance to the occupation for months.
destroy the supply chain
Ukraine announced its counteroffensive eight days ago, although in reality it has been talking about a campaign to retake the south for some time. It has always avoided setting specific objectives and its spokespersons have asked for patience in the face of a campaign based on weakening Russian troops destroying their supply chain, instead of reconquering territory with infantry and armor.
Since last July, the Ukrainian armed forces have destroyed or damaged several bridges over the Dnieper River, which makes it difficult to supply the Russian troops located on the left bank. This Monday, Natalia Humeniuk, military spokesperson for Ukraine’s Southern Command, reiterated that three bridges over the Dnieper River are damaged and unusable. Russian forces have built pontoons over the water and use boats and ferries to keep supplying their troops, but they are also under Ukrainian fire, she has insisted, without giving an exact number of targets hit. They speak of bombings against command posts, ammunition depots and logistics nodes that would make it difficult for Russia to maintain its deployment on the right bank of the Dnieper.
Specifically, they have bombed the Antonivka bridges (one of the most important, next to the city of Jersón) and of New Jakovka (about 50 kilometers upriver), which prevents the reinforcement of Russian contingents in the occupied region and makes it difficult to supply the soldiers stationed there. However, he added that any slight Ukrainian advance by land is answered by constant Russian bombardment at a great distance.
What the Antonovsky bridge in Kherson looks like this morning.
Note the absence of the previously seen Russian engineering equipment attempting repair – it seems they’ve given up on the bridge for now. pic.twitter.com/gpYQI1KmZZ
— Jimmy (@JimmySecUK) September 5, 2022
Balance of troops on both sides
kyiv has not given details of its deployment over Kherson. An officer of a Ukrainian brigade, Taras Berezovets, told the television channel espresso that on the right bank of the Dnieper River there are currently about 20,000 Russian and pro-Russian soldiers.
In an interview with the Russian magazine jellyfishcritical of the Kremlin, the military analyst Rob Leefrom the American Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), assures that a large part of the Ukrainian military units are made up of reservists and volunteers without much training. That makes it difficult to advance and secure positions. That is why the strategy focuses on very precious and long-distance attacks thanks to missile systems HIMARS provided by the US, and the British MLRS. Bombings of Russian tanks and bases in the region by armed drones have also been reported from Ukrainian sources. Baraktar.
For the military analyst, crossing the Dnieper River “will be difficult” and much more to maintain the offensive once it crosses it, but he points to a certain “Ukrainian advantage in artillery” that will allow it to “continue attacking behind Russian lines” even if they do not cross the river.
For its part, the damage inflicted on the Russian military squads is not clear, although various sources suggest that the The Kremlin launched a volunteer recruitment campaign weeks ago. to allocate to the front in southern Ukraine and Donbas.