MYKOLAIV REGION, Ukraine – In their summer campaign to expel Russian troops from the southern Kherson region, Ukrainian forces decimated Russian command centers and ammunition depots, cut supply lines with precision strikes on key bridges and sowed terror among collaborationist officials with a spate of car bombings, shootings and, Ukrainian officials said, at least one poisoning.
But in the sunlit fields along the western border of the Kherson region, the Ukrainian fighters who would be called upon to deliver the knockout blow to any successful attempt to retake territory remain pinned down in their trenches. The cuts to Russia’s supply lines have not yet eroded the Moscow armed forces’ overwhelming advantage in artillery, ammunition and heavy weapons, making it difficult, if not impossible, for Ukrainian forces to advance without incurring huge losses.
“Without a doubt we need a counter-offensive, I sincerely believe it will come,” said a 33-year-old lieutenant by the call sign Ada, who commands a trench outpost in the neighboring region of Mykolaiv, a few miles from the Russian Federation. lines in 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 forces have been out of Kherson for weeks, their artillery campaign appears to be paying off, slowing the flow of Russian weapons, equipment and troops into the region, Ukrainian officials say. Using highly accurate weapons such as the American-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, Ukrainian forces stormed the three bridges over the vast Dnipro River that connect thousands of Russians to their supply lines in occupied Ukrainian territory east of the river.
The attacks have rendered these bridges “unusable,” said Nataliya Gumenyuk, the spokeswoman for the Ukrainian army’s southern command. Over the weekend, Ukrainian troops launched another attack on the Antonivsky Bridge, the main supply artery to the city of Kherson.
“We clearly understand that the occupiers depend on those arteries to keep supplying reserves, ammunition and military equipment,” Ms Gumenyuk said.
The question now is whether this pressure on Russian supply lines will be enough to cripple the combat capability of Russian forces and perhaps force the Kremlin to order at least part of the force to withdraw from Kherson and fall back 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 of this.
At the front, a devastating barrage of Russian attacks inevitably kills a handful of Ada’s troops every day, the lieutenant said. A near miss from a grad rocket the day before charred the grass around a hollowed-out position, and in the nearby field, the tail section of another rocket was visible protruding from the ground. Every now and then a low-decibel thud echoed across the plains.
It’s the same across the roughly 50-mile Kherson Front, which runs roughly north-south through fertile fields. Ukraine’s commanders and military analysts say any strike would require far more troops and equipment than Ukraine currently has at the Kherson theater.
Russia, meanwhile, has shifted resources from fighting in the eastern Donbas to bolster its positions in the south.
Major General Dmytro Marchenko, the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces in the region, recently acknowledged bubbling frustrations over the slow pace of Ukraine’s efforts to retake Kherson, but said he could not provide a timetable for the start of major offensive actions.
“I want to tell the people of Kherson to have a little patience – that it won’t take as long as everyone expects,” General Marchenko said in an interview with RBK-Ukraine last week. “We have not forgotten them, no one will abandon our people and we will come and help them, but they have to wait a little longer.”
If the Ukrainians can completely cut the bridges over the Dnipro and cut them, the Kremlin will have no choice but to withdraw some troops or force Russian troops to fight with limited supplies and “hope they cope,” it said. Phillips P. O’Brien. , a professor of strategic studies at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.
“If they haven’t built up significant depots on the west bank, you’d think they’d be in big trouble in a matter of weeks,” he said.