In recent weeks, Ukrainian forces have crossed the Dnieper river into Russian-occupied territory, raising hopes that this could be a significant breakthrough in the ongoing counteroffensive against Russia. The Dnieper river has acted as a front line in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, separating Ukrainian troops on the west bank from Russian forces on the east. The Ukrainian forces’ successful crossing of the river has established several footholds on the east bank, closer to Russian-annexed Crimea. This development has spurred hopes that Ukraine could advance further south towards Crimea, potentially breaking the land bridge that Russia has established between its territory and the peninsula.
The proximity of the left bank of the Dnieper river to Crimea is of great significance to the Ukrainian military. A successful offensive operation could move Ukrainian forces behind Russian forces, disrupting their logistics and potentially causing significant problems for Russia. Oleksandr Musiyenko, a Ukrainian military expert, highlighted the importance of the left bank in Kherson, stating that Ukrainian forces are now just 70 kilometers away from occupied Crimea. Ukrainian military analysts believe that the breakthrough could enable Ukraine to advance west and south towards Crimea, potentially liberating a large portion of the territory currently occupied by Russia.
Russia Caught Off Guard
The scale of Ukraine’s river crossing took Russia somewhat by surprise. The Russian-installed governor of the Kherson region acknowledged that Ukraine had initially sent more personnel across the Dnieper than Russian forces could effectively counter. However, Russia retaliated by launching attacks on the Ukrainian troops and heavy equipment that had crossed the river, using artillery, missiles, and drones. Intense fighting has been reported in several villages on the east bank, with Krynky as the epicenter of the conflict. Russia is attempting to counterattack and prevent Ukrainian advances towards Crimea.
Ongoing Battle for Control
Ukraine’s military reported that its forces had pushed Russian forces 3 to 8 kilometers back from the river, inhibiting their ability to bombard Ukrainian forces on the west bank with mortars. The military requested operational “silence” to focus on the fluid front line. The British Ministry of Defense described the ground fighting on the east bank as characterized by confused infantry combat and artillery exchanges in wooded terrain. Ukraine has effectively utilized small attack uncrewed aerial vehicles, while the Russian Air Force has conducted numerous sorties to support their frontline troops.
The Importance of Ukraine’s Success
The outcome of Ukraine’s attempts to maintain and advance positions on the east bank is crucial as there have been minimal gains in the counteroffensive against Russia since its launch in June. Additionally, Western support for continued aid to Ukraine is wavering. Analysts emphasize that Ukraine’s success in establishing a robust beachhead on the eastern bank could threaten the western flank of Russian forces, potentially forcing a withdrawal of Russian forces occupying the land bridge back into Crimea. This would mark a significant breakthrough and liberate a substantial portion of the territory currently occupied by Russia.
While Russia has been temporarily put on the back foot by Ukraine’s bold river crossing, the road ahead remains challenging. Russia has established defensive positions near the Dnieper, and Ukraine’s ability to develop a stable beachhead on the eastern bank is uncertain. Furthermore, the onset of winter weather restricts maneuver warfare, potentially giving Russia an opportunity to refocus its military efforts and deny Ukraine a vital breakthrough.
Russia’s Claims and the Ongoing Situation
Russia has publicly claimed that Ukraine is suffering “colossal losses” on the east bank of the Dnieper, but these claims remain unverified by credible sources. The situation on the battlefield is fluid, and the outcome of the counteroffensive and Ukraine’s advancement towards Crimea is yet to be determined.
The Ukrainian forces’ successful crossing of the Dnieper river has opened up new possibilities for the counteroffensive against Russia. The potential breakthrough holds strategic advantages for Ukraine, with the opportunity to disrupt Russian logistics and potentially liberate occupied territories. However, challenges lie ahead, and the ongoing battle for control in Kherson will determine the success of Ukraine’s efforts. The outcome of this counteroffensive holds significant importance for Ukraine and its international supporters.