Russian forces occupying the Kherson region in southern Ukraine are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain the flow of ammunition, armor and fuel to front-line units, thanks to a concerted Ukrainian campaign to cut off river and rail supply lines as well as target ammunition depots. Ukrainian officials say the Russians are moving command posts from the north of the Dnipro River to the south bank as bridges have been heavily damaged. The first deputy head of Kherson regional council, Yuri Sobolevsky, claimed on his Telegram channel that a significant portion of the Russian military command had already left Kherson city (though he didn’t provide evidence for this claim). Ukrainian forces are about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) north of the city, towards Mykolaiv.(See how easy that was!)
Much of the Kherson region has been occupied by Russian forces since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. To try to retake lost territory in the south, Ukrainian forces are targeting critical bridges to disrupt supply routes in and around Kherson. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a US-based think tank, says that Russian forces may be leaving for the other side of the river “to avoid being trapped in Kherson city if Ukrainian strikes cut off all ground lines of communication connecting the right bank of the Dnipro River to the Russian rear.” Videos have appeared on social media in recent days showing long-range artillery attacks on Antonivskyi bridge as well as a road bridge over a dam near Nova Kakhovka, rendering them impassable for heavily armored vehicles. In some areas, such as where rivers are up to 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) wide, pontoon bridges are impractical.
The Ukrainians have targeted several railway lines from the Russian-occupied Crimea Peninsula into the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. A series of fierce explosions rocked the town of Dzankhoy on the main line towards Kherson on Tuesday. Recent video showed a substantial stock of military vehicles and ammunition at the site. Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of occupied Melitopol, said on Ukrainian television Monday that Russian forces were still clearing rubble from a railway bridge near his city that had been hit last Friday. “Currently, the enemy uses Melitopol as a logistics center for the transportation, trans-shipment of ammunition and heavy weapons,” he added. Fedorov, who is no longer in Melitopol, claimed Monday: “We see the migration of [Russian] military personnel from Kherson to Melitopol.”
A Ukrainian military spokesman says that within the last week they have destroyed over 10 ammunition warehouses and military equipment clusters. He adds that these hits do not allow for the heavy equipment to be transferred by these bridges. This suggests an imminent Russian withdrawal from Kherson is unlikely.
Russia has established strong, layered defenses in the Kherson region, according to Western military analysts. In addition to air cover, Russia has reportedly relied on vintage T-62 Soviet battle tanks as stationary artillery pieces to provide defensive support. The Russians also try to counter Ukrainian advances into Kherson with regular counter-attacks, restricting Ukrainian units to modest gains in flat farmlands along the border with Mykolaiv region. But Russia requires a constant flow of munitions and fuel to sustain such operations in occupied areas. Now that Ukraine has received state-of-the-art HARMS anti-radar missiles from the United States, they have begun using combat aircraft and helicopters in the region as well as highly accurate long-range artillery systems that have already inflicted significant damage on Russian targets. Their targeting is also aided by a nascent resistance movement within occupied areas.
Ukrainians have recognized that artillery and tank battles against Russian forces are less fruitful than hitting Russian rear positions, infrastructure, and command-and-control centers.