A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

Jul 26, 2022

Ukraine's Military Believes It Is Now Positioned To Take Back Kherson, Other Areas

The Ukrainian military appears increasingly confident that retaking Kherson is a matter of when, not if. 

Even the relentlessly pessimistic New York Times coverage of Ukraine is shifting, albeit glacially. JL 

Michael Schwirtz and Daniel Berehulak report in the New York Times:

Along a jagged frontline, Ukrainian forces are preparing for one of the most ambitious and significant military actions of the war: retaking Kherson, the first city to fall to Russian forces. The Russian military is in a relatively weaker position, having expended weapons and personnel in their Donbas offensive. Fighting on the western and northern borders of the region is intensifying, as Ukrainian forces lay the groundwork for a large offensive push. Ukrainian troops have now liberated 44 towns and villages, 15% of the territory. "We're ready."

The road to Russian-occupied Kherson in southern Ukraine passes through a no man’s land of charred wheat fields and cratered villages. The tails of rockets stick out of asphalt and the boom of incoming and outgoing artillery ricochets off tidy, abandoned homes.

Along a jagged frontline, Ukrainian forces are preparing for what is one of the most ambitious and significant military actions of the war: retaking Kherson. The first city to fall to Russian forces, Kherson and the fertile lands that surround it are a key Russian beachhead, from which its military continuously launches attacks across a broad swath of Ukrainian territory. Regaining control could also help restore momentum to Ukraine, and give its troops a much-needed morale boost after months of vicious fighting.

Already, fighting on the western and northern borders of the region is intensifying, as Ukrainian forces — currently about 30 miles from the city at their closest point — lay the groundwork for a large offensive push. For a month, Ukrainian artillery and rocket forces have been softening up Russian positions, using an array of new, Western-supplied weapons like the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, provided by the United States.

Unlike in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, where a massive Russian force slowly captured a province in recent weeks, the Ukrainian military appears to have begun to turn the tide in the Kherson region, if haltingly.

After losing control over most of the region in the war’s first weeks, Ukrainian troops have now liberated 44 towns and villages along the border areas, about 15 percent of the territory, according to the region’s military governor, Dmytro Butrii. Ukraine’s top officials have given no clear timeline for retaking Kherson, but the president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has made clear it is a top priority.

Ukraine’s planned counteroffensive in the south has created debate among Western officials and some analysts about whether Ukraine was ready for such a big effort, or if it is the best use of resources when Russian advances have come mostly in the Donbas.

Still, Ukrainian officials and several Western intelligence officials said it was important that Ukraine try to launch a counterattack. They say that the Russian military is in a relatively weaker position, having expended weapons and personnel in their Donbas offensive. Richard Moore, the chief of the British foreign intelligence service, MI6, predicted that the Russians would be forced to take a pause, offering an opening to Ukrainian forces.

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