Ukraine on Thursday expressed a heightened sense of urgency over its looming counteroffensive in the south, saying Russia was rushing to bolster its forces in the region and taking further steps to cement its political grip on territory. she controls.
Russia aimed dozens of missiles at targets across Ukraine, including 25 fired from Belarus, according to the Ukrainian military, even as it moved troops and equipment into the southern Kherson region. Ukrainian forces continued to maintain their defensive lines in eastern Ukraine while targeting key command and control centers and Russian troop strongholds deep behind Russian lines.
The Ukrainians have been preparing the ground for a major counteroffensive in the south for some time, and long-range missile strikes in recent days have left thousands of Russian troops stationed west of the Dnipro river around the port city. of Kherson in a precarious position, largely cut off from the Russian strongholds to the east. But Russia is now moving “the maximum number” of forces to the southern front in the Kherson region, the head of Ukraine’s National Security Council told Ukrainian television on Wednesday evening.
The official, Oleksiy Danilov, described “a very strong movement of their troops” towards the Kherson front.
As Western weapons continue to arrive in the country, they are needed on many fronts and ammunition remains limited. And while Ukraine’s Western allies are rushing to train Ukrainian soldiers on new equipment, that too remains a work in progress. The Russians have also had months to fortify their defensive lines, and the Ukrainians have yet to launch a major ground counteroffensive.
Mr Danilov’s comments reflected the urgency for the Kyiv government to show progress as it continued to raise expectations in a nation hungry for positive developments after months of brutal fighting.
The Deputy Chief of Operations of the Ukrainian General Staff also said on Thursday that “our troops continue to gradually liberate the Kherson region.” The official, Oleksii Hromov, cited a village in the northwestern Kherson region as the latest to be recaptured.
The most promising front for the Ukrainians for possible major advances is in the western part of Kherson, where they are helped by the geography of the country.
The Dnipro River runs the length of Ukraine, dividing the nation east and west. The Kherson region is itself divided by the river, with the regional capital and critical port city of Kherson on the western bank.
Ukrainian officials and Western military analysts said strikes this week on a key bridge over the Dnipro and other critical roads and bridges in recent days had particularly exposed Russian occupation forces around the city of Kherson. A British intelligence report said on Thursday that Russia’s main fighting force on the west bank of the river “now looks very vulnerable” due to strikes on the bridge.
“The city of Kherson, the most politically important population center occupied by Russia, is now virtually cut off from other occupied territories,” the report said. “Its loss would seriously undermine Russia’s attempts to portray the occupation as a success.”
The head of the Kherson military administration loyal to Kyiv said that Russia’s supply channels of arms and food to the front line had been cut off. “Panic is growing among the occupiers,” said official Serhii Khlan.
The Russians will likely try to repair the bridge, he said, but will have to deal with “the raging flow of the river, which makes it impossible to build crossings”.
The Russians could also try to set up a system to transport equipment across the river, he said, but the announcement by local Kherson officials loyal to Moscow that there would be no no humanitarian shipments for at least three days underscored the depth of their dilemma.