A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

Jul 27, 2022

How US-Supplied HIMARS Helped Ukraine Trap Russia's Kherson Garrison

NATO-supplied mobile missile systems, especially the US HIMARS, have severely damaged the only remaining bridge connecting Russian troops in Kherson with the rest of Crimea or Russia. There are reports that at least one of the bridge's spans collapsed.

The implication is that, aside from a small bridge over a dam further north on the Dnipro River, which is also damaged, all the Russians' structural road connections are now down. The question is whether Russia will evacuate its troops by ferry, temporary - and vulnerable - pontoon bridges - or leave them to be captured by Ukrainian forces. JL 

Thomas Newdick reports in The Drive

The Antonivskyi bridge is the only bridge over the Dnipro in the city of Kherson. As such, it provides a key means of keeping supplies and weaponry flowing to Russian forces occupying the south of the country. Up to 18 impacts were made on the bridge by missile attacks, especially HIMARS. "Traffic on the bridge is blocked and (it) will require extensive repairs." A railway bridge further upstream on the Dnipro had been hit by missile strikes and is being repaired. Another, smaller crossing over the Dnipro in the Kherson region was also attacked last week.

A strategic bridge within Russian-held territory in Ukraine has been put out of action, according to reports. Based on statements from both Ukrainian and Russian authorities, Antonivskyi bridge, which spans the Dnipro river, near the city of Kherson, came under fire from U.S.-supplied M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, overnight. This is the latest high-profile action for which this weapon system has been connected. The importance of the Antonivskyi bridge lies in it being the only bridge over the Dnipro in the city of Kherson. As such, it provides a key means of keeping supplies — and especially heavy weaponry — flowing to Russian forces occupying the south of the country.


A roughly one-minute clip published on Telegram by the Ukrainian Armed Forces claims to show the guided rocket fire directed against the bridge, shortly after 1:00 AM this morning.“HIMARS dealt another powerful blow to one of the two bridges, which are used by the invaders for a massive transfer of troops,” senior presidential adviser Anton Gerashchenko said, citing the Ukrainian Armed Forces. “Let’s hope that this time the Antonivskiy bridge will not withstand the power of the HIMARS missile attack.”

The Russian-installed administration in Kherson admitted that the Antonivskyi bridge had been closed to civilian traffic after the strike. However, Kirill Stremousov, the administration’s deputy head told the Russian Interfax agency that the bridge’s structural integrity had not been affected.

“Traffic on the bridge is blocked,” Stremousov said on his Telegram channel. “Indeed, another HIMARS strike was launched during the night.” Stremousov later added that Ukraine used various artillery systems and that the number of projectiles hitting the bridge “exceeded 10.”


However, videos that purport to show the approximately 0.9-mile-long bridge reveal several large holes punched through it and suggest that, at the very least, significant repair work will now be required. Some Russian media sources also suggest the bridge will require “extensive repairs”. Based on video and witness accounts, up to 18 impacts were made on the bridge, which again raises a question about Russia’s ability to defend against rocket and missile attacks, despite its own extravagant claims of being able to counter HIMARS, in particular.

Stremousov confirmed that: “there are several ferry crossings” now in operation, which also suggests that the damage to the bridge might be more severe than he had admitted.

 

A spokesperson for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Nataliya Humeniuk confirmed that the bridge had come under attack but also claimed that the strikes had been “intricate,” with the attacks having been planned to not entirely destroy the bridge. “I will note that we appreciate everything that is in our country, even when it is under occupation,” Humeniuk said. That, at least, suggests that Ukraine may plan to bring the bridge back into operation soon, depending on its progress in the current campaign. Ahead of last night’s strike, the bridge had come under repeated attack from Ukrainian forces and had already sustained damage serious enough for it to be closed to trucks, although cars had still been permitted to cross.

 

It seems that the Antonivskyi bridge was not the only logistical bottleneck to have come under Ukrainian attack in the same region overnight. The Russian TASS news agency also reported today that a railway bridge further upstream on the Dnipro had been hit by missile strikes and was now being repaired. Another, smaller crossing over the Dnipro in the Kherson region was also attacked last week. This is the dam at the hydroelectric plant in Nova Khakovka, which has apparently remained open to traffic.

The focus of this Ukrainian offensive on Russian military lines of supply in the Kherson region points to the huge significance of winning back territory here. Located just north of the Crimean peninsula that has been held by Russia since 2014, the Kherson region was swiftly taken by Russian troops when the latest invasion began earlier this year.

Since then, there have been Ukrainian counterattacks, but these have had little effect on the overall military balance here. Now, however, with significant portions of the Russian invasion force tied down in the campaign in the eastern Donbas region, it seems Kyiv has taken the opportunity to strike in the south.

 

As such, the attack on the Antonivskyi bridge could be a precursor to a renewed offensive in the south. There has been speculation that additional impetus has been provided by the receipt of new long-range weapons, like HIMARS, but the truth is that regaining control of the Kherson region has always been on Kyiv’s agenda. Undoubtedly, however, Ukraine has been making considerable use of further-reaching weaponry to exact a heavy toll on Russian ammunition dumps in rear areas. Over 50 of these have been hit in recent weeks, according to the Ukrainian Minister of Defense, Oleksiy Reznikov.

Ukrainian military officials have now been emboldened to talk of rapid progress by Ukrainian troops in this area leading to a “turning point” in the battle. Sergiy Khlan, an aide to the administrative head of the Kherson region, recently told Ukrainian TV that the region would “definitely be liberated by September.”

That’s a bold prediction and, with so much at stake, Ukraine’s southern counteroffensive could well become a long and drawn-out process. In the meantime, Russia is also reportedly looking for other options to keep its supply lines open. In addition to efforts to repair the Antonivskyi bridge, the Russian Armed Forces are said to have previously used pontoons to span the Inhulets river as well as working to reinstate an airfield in Melitopol.





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