MYKOLAIV REGION, Ukraine – During their summer campaign to drive Russian troops out of the southern Kherson region, Ukrainian forces decimated Russian command centers and ammunition depots, cut supply lines with strikes from precision on key bridges and sowed terror among collaborationist officials with an upsurge in car bombings, shootings and, according to Ukrainian officials, at least one poisoning.
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 retake the territory remain stuck in their trenches. Cuts to Russian supply lines have yet to erode Moscow forces’ overwhelming advantage in artillery, ammunition and heavy weapons, making it difficult, if not impossible, for Ukrainian forces to advance without suffering huge losses.
“Without a doubt we need a counter-offensive, I sincerely believe it will come,” said a 33-year-old lieutenant with call sign Ada, who commands a trench outpost in the neighboring region of Mykolaiv, a few kilometers from the Russian lines. Kherson.
But he added: “We need the advantage in numbers, we need the advantage in heavy weapons. Unfortunately, this is a bit of a problem for us.
Even though Ukrainian troops have not advanced in Kherson for weeks, their artillery campaign appears to have paid off, slowing the flow of Russian weapons, equipment and troops into the area, according to Ukrainian officials. Using high-precision weapons such as the US-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, Ukrainian forces pounded the three bridges over the vast Dnipro River that connect thousands of Russians at their supply lines in occupied Ukrainian territory east of the river.
The strikes rendered these bridges “inoperative”, said Nataliya Gumenyuk, spokeswoman for the Ukrainian army’s southern command. Over the weekend, Ukrainian forces launched a new strike on the Antonivsky Bridge, the main supply artery of the city of Kherson.
“We clearly understand that the occupiers depend on these arteries to continue to bring in supplies, ammunition and military equipment,” Ms Gumenyuk said.
The question now is whether this pressure on Russia’s supply lines will be enough to cripple the combat capability of Russian troops and perhaps force the Kremlin to order at least part of the force to withdraw from Kherson and withdraw to the other side of the river. Several Ukrainian officials in the region said this week that some Russian field commanders had already started moving their headquarters east of the river, although two senior Ukrainian military officials said there was no evidence of that.
At the front, a deluge of Russian strikes inevitably kills a handful of Ada soldiers every day, the lieutenant said. A near miss by a scale rocket a day earlier charred the grass around a dugout position, and in the nearby field the tail section of another rocket was visible protruding from the ground. Periodically, a low-decibel thud echoed across the plains.
It is the same along the whole front of Kherson, about 50 miles long, which cuts roughly from north to south through fertile fields. Ukrainian commanders and military analysts say any advance would require far more troops and equipment than Ukraine currently has in the Kherson theater.
Russia, meanwhile, has shifted resources from the fighting in eastern Donbass to bolster its positions in the south.
Major General Dmytro Marchenko, commander of Ukrainian forces in the region, recently admitted seething frustrations over Ukraine’s slow pace of efforts to retake Kherson, but said he could give no timetable for the start. major offensive actions.
“I want to tell the people of Kherson to be a little patient – that it won’t be as long as everyone hopes,” General Marchenko said in an interview last week with RBK-Ukraine. “We have not forgotten them, no one will abandon our people and we will come to help them, but they have to wait a little longer.”
If the Ukrainians can completely cut the bridges over the Dnipro and keep them cut, the Kremlin will have no choice but to withdraw some forces or force Russian troops to fight with limited supplies and “hope they will get over it.” ‘will come out of it,’ Phillips P. O’Brien said. , professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
“If they haven’t built massive depots on the West Bank, you would think they would run into major problems within weeks,” he said.