Ukraine announced an advance of its troops on the left bank of the Dnieper held by the Russian army, a success after months of fruitless counter-offensive, but which is unlikely to turn into a real breakthrough, according to military experts interviewed by AFP.
Kiev on Sunday claimed to have pushed back the Russian army “3 to 8 km” deep on the left side of the Dnieper River, which had become a front line in southern Ukraine, without specifying whether its troops controlled entirely this area of the Kherson region.
If confirmed, this advance would be the biggest push by the Ukrainian military against the Russians since the recapture of the village of Robotyné in the Zaporizhia region in August, while the counter-offensive was launched in June.
“Ukraine has a fairly extensive bridgehead on the left bank. The Russians are suffering losses there because the right bank, controlled by the Ukrainian armed forces, is on a hill and it is much easier for them to shoot at Russian troops from there,” according to Vilnius-based Russian commentator and journalist Michael .Nacke, sentenced in Russia in absentia to 11 years in prison for comments about the Russian military.
The leader of the occupied part of the Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo, admitted that “about a company and a half” of Ukrainian soldiers, or several tens or hundreds of men, had managed to anchor positions outside the village of Krynky. while minimizing its importance.
According to pro-Kremlin military expert Alexander Khramchikhin, the land reclaimed by the Ukrainians is “microscopic” and does not allow them to deploy military equipment. “No equipment, no offense, just losses,” he sums up.
Moscow, however, replaced the commander of the Russian military group “Dnieper” operating in the area in late October, due to the difficulty of the situation according to analysts.
According to French military expert Michel Goya, the Ukrainian operation is “quite limited, quite symbolic”, but “allows to declare small victories after the failure of the main offensive”.
Heavy equipment required
To turn its success into a major breakthrough, the Ukrainian army must manage to deploy its army across the river, crossing this great natural barrier and then maneuvering in a swampy area, in the middle of the rainy season in this south area
The first objective of the Ukrainians is to “cut Russian supply routes”. To do this, they are constantly expanding their bridgehead, they are not only in Krynky, they are moving,” according to Michael Nacke, who emphasizes that Russia “does not have the most professional units in this region.”
The Ukrainian operation “keeps the pressure on the Russians, who are forced to move part of their reserves to the Dnieper, to the detriment of other sectors of the front”, Michel Goya also points out.
Taking positions in depth could also allow Kiev to launch a larger assault on the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014. But to do so, experts estimate, thousands of men and heavy vehicles would be needed.
For this, “bridges over the Dnieper are necessary, but any pontoon would be vulnerable to Russian air and ground firepower that has not been completely suppressed,” and in particular to drones, estimates Mykola Bielieskov, a Ukrainian military analyst.
Only bridges, existing or to be built, allow heavy equipment and logistics to be transported. If we want to advance several tens of kilometers deep, we must also advance our artillery otherwise we will find ourselves cut off from all support”, explains Mr. goya
“The Ukrainians who crossed are infantry and naval commandos (in zodiacs, editor’s note). They have a few vehicles, but generally remain very light. They are mostly protected by their artillery that remains on the other side of the he laughs”, points out the retired French colonel.
More generally, several military sources note, this area of Krynky is considered “secondary” by the Russians, who are concentrating their forces in Avdiivka, an industrial city to the east that the Russian military is trying to encircle.
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