Ukraine’s counterattack in the Kherson region continues at full speed. The army has so far been able to obtain smaller areas. Why quick successes are unlikely.
Long preparations were made before the counterattack
In the early morning hours of August 29, Ukraine launched its long-awaited counteroffensive in the occupied Kherson region. Kyiv delayed the offensive until the supply lines and air defense of the Russian armed forces and local command structures were weakened.
The attack therefore came after weeks of painstaking efforts to undermine the logistics and supply lines of Russian forces stationed west of the Dnipro River.
The Ukrainian offensive began simultaneously in five different directions. Intense artillery fire and air strikes preceded the attacks. This indicates that the Ukrainian Air Force is quite capable of supporting the combat of ground forces.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed that the attack was indeed the long-awaited counterattack and promised to retake all the occupied territories. He also urged Russian forces west of Dnipro to flee.
Unusable bridges for Russian logistics
Ukraine has deftly used Western precision artillery systems—especially US-made HIMARS multiple rocket launchers—to destroy Russian ammunition depots, command centers, shipping centers, and most importantly, the three bridges spanning the Dnipro River in the occupied Kherson Territory.
Even before the attack, all bridges were rendered unusable and no longer usable by heavy military vehicles. Russia’s restoration efforts were in vain in the face of repeated precision strikes by Ukraine.
Russia tried to build pontoon bridges across the river, but Ukrainian artillery destroyed or damaged them as well. In the end, Russian troops began to build a huge floating bridge, consisting of a large barge, just below the Antonovsky Bridge, where the huge body of the bridge would provide protection from HIMARS missiles. However, the work could not be completed before the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
A few days before the attack, Ukraine also damaged the Darivka Bridge, which was vital for crossing the Inhulets River to further divide the Russian forces west of Dnipro. Ukraine also efficiently uses US-supplied AGM-88 HARM radar missiles against Russian air defense.
This comes at a time when the Russian air force has already had to reduce its operations in the Kherson region as it has withdrawn from its westernmost bases in Crimea and moved to more distant airports.
Ukrainian breakthroughs pushed back
The conflict is currently ongoing in all five directions. However, it is almost impossible to precisely reproduce events in the so-called “fog of war”.
As far as reconstructed from open sources, Ukrainian forces first broke through the front Russian defenses and managed to capture small areas, including some settlements. A force mobilized from Donetsk abandoned its positions after suffering heavy losses.
On the second day, however, the Ukrainian advance was slowed by fortified Russian positions and heavy artillery fire. Russian forces managed to push the Ukrainian troops in two directions almost back to their starting positions.
As a countermeasure, Ukraine has also started using HIMARS launchers against frontline targets; This is the first time that HIMARS systems have previously only been used for attacks deep into enemy territory.
However, due to the complex Russian defensive lines, a sudden breakthrough by Ukraine or a lightning war-like operation should not be expected, but rather a slow-moving offensive.
Separatist referendum should be postponed
Given the current situation, it seems highly unlikely that Russia will hold the separatist referendum in the Kherson region, originally scheduled for the second week of September.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive has already achieved this intermediate goal, regardless of how the war will develop in the near future.
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