KHERSON, Ukraine (AP) – A Ukrainian sniper adjusts his scope and fires a .50-caliber bullet at a Russian soldier crossing the Dnieper River. Earlier, another Ukrainian used a drone to scan Russian troops.
Two weeks after retreating from the southern city of Kherson, the Russians are shelling the city with artillery as it digs in across the Dnieper River.
Ukraine is attacking Russian troops with its long-range weapons, and Ukrainian officials say they want to capitalize on their momentum.
The Russian withdrawal from the only provincial capital gained in the nine-month war was one of Moscow’s most significant battlefield losses. The Ukrainian army said through a spokesman that now that its troops have captured a new front line, the army is planning its next move.
The Ukrainian military can now strike deep into Russian-controlled territories and possibly launch a counteroffensive closer to Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014.
Russian troops continue to build fortifications, including trench systems near the Crimean border and some areas in the east between the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
According to the British Ministry of Defence, in some places, the new fortifications are up to 60 kilometers (37 mi) behind the current front lines, suggesting Russia is preparing for more Ukrainian breakthroughs.
“Ukraine’s armed forces seized the initiative in this war a while ago,” said Mick Ryan, military strategist and retired Australian Army major general. “They have the momentum. There’s no way they want to waste it.”
Crossing the river and pushing the Russians further back would require complex logistical planning. Both sides have blown up the bridges over the Dnieper.
Mario Bikarsky, an analyst with the Economist Intelligence Unit, said, “This is what cut the Russians’ supply lines and it is also what will make the Ukrainian advance beyond the left bank of the river more difficult.”
In a major battlefield development this week, Kyiv’s forces attacked Russian positions on the Kinburn Spit, the gateway to the Black Sea basin, as well as parts of the southern Kherson region still under Russian control. The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said retaking the area could help Ukrainian forces push into Russian-held territory in the Kherson region “under significantly reduced Russian artillery fire”. The think tank said control of the region would help Kyiv reduce Russian attacks on Ukraine’s southern ports and allow it to increase its naval activity in the Black Sea.
The ISW said some military experts say there is a possibility that the weather could disproportionately harm the poorly equipped Russian army and that Ukraine would be able to take advantage of the frozen terrain and the muddy autumn months more than ever. Can easily allow you to move forward.
In the meantime, Russia’s main task is to prevent any withdrawal from the wider Kherson region and strengthen its defense systems over Crimea, analyst Bikarsky said. Military strategist Ryan said Russia would use the winter to plan its 2023 offensives, stockpile ammunition and continue its campaign to target critical infrastructure including power and water plants.
Russia’s daily attacks are getting faster than before. Last week, a fuel depot in Kherson was attacked for the first time since Russia’s retreat. Russian shelling this week killed at least one person and wounded three, according to the Ukrainian president’s office. Russian airstrikes damaged key infrastructure before the Russians left, creating a dire humanitarian crisis. Coupled with the threat of attack, that is adding a layer of tension, say many people who have endured Russia’s occupation and are leaving, or are considering it.
Ukrainian authorities have recently begun evacuating civilians from recently liberated parts of the Kherson and Mykolaiv regions, fearing heat, electricity and water shortages due to Russian shelling.
Having boarded the train on Monday, Tatyana Stadnik has decided to leave after waiting for the liberation of Kherson.
“We are leaving now because it is scary to sleep at night. Shells are flying and exploding over our heads. Enough is enough,” he said. “We will wait until the situation improves. And then we’ll be back home.
Others in the Kherson region have decided to stay despite their fears.
“I’m scared,” said Lyudmila Bondar, a resident of the small village of Kiselevka. “I still sleep in the basement fully clothed.”