Kherson

September 8, 2022

A week into Ukraine's push to retake southern Kherson region from Russian control, Ukrainian forces surprised Russia by conducting "an opportunistic yet highly effective counteroffensive" in northern Kharkiv, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported late Wednesday. "Ukrainian forces likely used tactical surprise" to advance at least 12 miles into Russian-held territory in Kharkiv, recapturing about 155 square miles of ground. "Rumors have swirled for days about a possible breakthrough in the eastern Kharkiv region, but with no word from Ukrainian officials," BBC News reports. Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky broke the silence Wednesday evening, celebrating "good news from Kharkiv region" but cautioning it is "not the time to name these or that settlements to which the Ukrainian flag is returning." The "unexpected Ukrainian military offensive" east and southeast of Kharkiv city has already encircled the Russian-held city of Balakliya, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing Ukrainian officials and pro-Russia military bloggers, and Ukrainian forces are pushing toward Kupyansk, "a road hub for Russian supplies heading south from the border," and Izyum, a Russian "staging point for its own offensive in eastern Ukraine." "Ukraine spoke openly of its intention to launch a southern offensive, prompting Russia to reinforce its units in the south with thousands of troops from the east," the Journal notes. "That appears to have opened opportunities for Ukrainian forces in the east to advance."  The "panicked and despondent" Russian military bloggers are warning Ukraine's Kherson offensive may be "a feint for renewed operations in Kharkiv Oblast," ISW reports. But it's more likely Ukrainian forces just "took prudent advantage of a reallocation of Russian troops, equipment, and overall operational focus to launch localized counteroffensives toward critical points in Kharkiv."  Meanwhile, "Ukraine also claimed fresh success in the south on Wednesday, seizing a village and striking Russian military facilities" and "ammunition depots," the Journal reports. "Ukrainian brigades continue to conduct offensive operations" in Kherson, Britain's Ministry of Defense affirmed early Thursday, and "Ukraine's systematic precision targeting of vulnerable crossing points" of the Dnipro River is impeding Russia's ability to resupply its forces with reinforcements and munitions.  "Russia still holds an advantage in the quantity of artillery and shells," and it is more costly for armies to attack than defend, the Journal reports. But Ukraine's "dual offensives in eastern and southern Ukraine show how the country's military is increasingly forcing Russia to react to its moves," not direct the war.

September 6, 2022

Plans to hold a "referendum" in Ukraine's occupied Kherson province on whether to join Russia are "being paused because of the security situation," Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of Kherson's Russian-appointed administration, told Russian media on Monday. Stremousov said Ukrainian shelling has made key bridges across the Dnipro River unsafe to cross, but he also cited Ukrainian threats to punish anyone who participates what it deems an illegal sham vote.  "The Ukrainian Resistance Center similarly reported that Russian occupation authorities are abandoning plans for referenda due to the ongoing counteroffensive" by Ukrainian forces, the Institute for the Study of War think tank reported Monday. "Shortly after TASS published his comment, Stremousov posted on Telegram denying he called for a pause because his administration had never set an official date for the referendum. Both of Stremousov's statements indicate a high level of disorganization within occupation regimes that is likely being exacerbated by the effects of the counteroffensive." Ukraine's military intelligence also said Monday that the country's special forces had attacked a military base in occupied Zaporizhzhia region, destroying the "base of the unit of the Russian FSB, which guarded the warehouse of ballots," as well as "all existing printed materials" for Russia's planned referendum in that region.  Ukraine's military is maintaining its "operational silence" about the Kherson counteroffensive, but it's clearly "tangibly degrading Russian logistics and administrative capabilities in occupied southern Ukraine," ISW assessed Monday.  "The Ukrainian counteroffensive is making verifiable progress in the south and the east," ISW reported Sunday night. "Ukrainian forces are advancing along several axes in western Kherson Oblast and have secured territory across the Siverskyi Donets River in Donetsk Oblast. The pace of the counteroffensive will likely change dramatically from day to day as Ukrainian forces work to starve the Russians of necessary supplies, disrupt their command and control, and weaken their morale even as counteroffensive ground assaults continue. The Russians will occasionally counterattack and regain some lost ground and will of course conduct likely fierce artillery and air attacks against liberated settlements and advancing Ukrainian troops. Ukrainian forces have made substantial enough progress to begin evoking more realistic commentary from the Russian milbloggers, who had been hewing very closely to the Kremlin's optimistic rhetoric until today."

August 31, 2022

Ukraine on Monday launched its long-projected counteroffensive in southern Kherson province, the country's first major offensive to retake territory seized by Russia after its Feb. 24 invasion. Ukrainian forces broke through Russia's defensive lines in several sectors and destroyed pontoon ferries it had been using to send troops and supplies across the Dnipro River after Ukraine rendered the main bridges inoperable, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said Monday night. A Ukrainian military source told CNN that Ukrainian forces had recaptured four villages from Russia as they advance on their main target, the regional capital Kherson City. By Tuesday night, Ukraine's armored forces were assaulting Russian forces "on several axes" and had "pushed the front line back some distance in places, exploiting relatively thinly held Russian defenses," Britain's Ministry of Defense wrote.  Russia's defense ministry has acknowledged the counteroffensive but said Ukraine is suffering heavily losses and making no significant territorial gains. "Top Ukrainian military officials have been tight-lipped about giving too many details about its reported counteroffensive, urging the wider public to be patient" and saying only that things are going according to plan, BBC News reports. Ukraine's counteroffensive "will require some time to correctly execute," the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War assessed Tuesday. "The Kremlin will likely exploit the lack of immediate victory over Kherson City or Ukrainian operational silence on the progress of the Ukrainian counteroffensive to misrepresent Ukrainian efforts as failing and to undermine public confidence in its prospects." Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday evening that Ukrainian forces are doing "everything possible and impossible so that every Russian serviceman will necessarily feel the Ukrainian response to this terrible terror that Russia has brought to our land." The Russian occupiers, he added, "can do only two things: run away or surrender. We leave them no other options."

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