A Blog by Jonathan Low


Nov 9, 2023

Why Ukraine's Cross-Dnipro Offensive Is Becoming More Threatening To Russia

Ukraine's cross-Dnipro assault is becoming a front, which poses a serious strategic threat to Russian defenses in southern Ukraine. 

If a breakout were to occur, Ukrainian forces could turn the Surovikin lines protecting Melitopol, Crimea and the Russian land bridge. JL 

RO 37 and Mark Sumner report in Daily Kos:

Ukraine’s presence on the left bank has grown in size and importance. This is beginning to look like a front. With reports that Russia had moved large numbers of forces to the north and its recent losses at Avdiivka, it’s unclear if Russia has replaced its forces in Kherson oblast. If Ukraine can secure a supply route across the river, Ukraine could threaten Russian defenses around Melitopol and the Surovikin line from behind. From there, it would be just a little over 100 kilometers (60 miles) to Crimea. Ukraine is relying on light infantry supported by armored vehicles. Russia clearly sees Ukrainian gains as a serious threat.

It’s been less than a year since Ukraine liberated Kherson. Kherson was the largest city and the only regional capital occupied by Russia following the 2022 invasion, and months of hard fighting made it difficult to imagine how Ukraine might liberate the city without resorting to the kind of hugely destructive tactics Russia had used to capture Severodonetsk or Bakhmut.  

With nearly 300,000 civilians in Kherson captured through treachery in the first week of the invasion, it seemed impossible for Ukraine to drive Russia out without a level of destruction that would cause thousands of civilian deaths and drive hundreds of thousands from their homes. Then Ukraine did it. By carefully targeting the Antonivskyi and Nova Kakhovka Bridges in the summer of 2022, then following up with dedicated pounding of Russian efforts to create pontoon bridges or deliver supplies on barges, Ukraine starved out the Russian forces on the right (west) side of the Dnipro River, forcing their complete withdrawal.


While the kilometer-wide Dnipro might seem like an insurmountable barrier and fighting on the left (east) side of the river has mostly been limited to raids by small numbers of Ukrainian special forces, in the past few weeks Ukraine’s presence on the left bank has grown in size and importance. This is beginning to look like it might not be a skirmish, but a front.

This seems like a good spot to remember what may be the most glorious event of this whole grim story to this point. This is what we want to see in Melitopol, in Mariupol, in Crimea, and in every city, town, and village currently occupied by Russia.


Right now, we are four days away from the first anniversary of those events in Kherson. But even just watching a video, it’s hard to resist the incredible relief, deep joy, and triumph of that day. More of this. Please.

Fighting began in the islands near Kherson within days of the Russian withdrawal, and Ukraine managed to establish a bridgehead on the left bank of the river over six months ago. That bridgehead—which is literally around the end of the non-functional Antonivskyi Bridge—has managed to hang on despite having few forces, little equipment, and facing heavy bombardment from Russia. Still, with no armor and no means of bringing heavy equipment across the river, Ukraine has been unable to make a serious move on the town of Oleshky to the south.

In August, Ukraine crossed the river at a second location, about 15 kilometers to the northeast near the town of Kozachi Laheri.

That movement came as intense conflict along the southern front caused Russia to relocate units from Kherson oblast and either move them to the frontline or position them as reserve units in the south. With reports that Russia had moved large numbers of forces to the north and its recent losses in the ongoing fight at Avdiivka, it’s unclear if Russia has replaced its forces in Kherson.

The bridgehead at Kozachi Laheri appeared to be much like that near the Antonivskyi Bridge–a small number of special forces operatives unsupported by heavy equipment. Soon after, a third crossing point was reported alongside the rail bridge connecting Prydniprovske and Pishchanivka.

While this crossing also seemed small, the combination of these bridgeheads, along with the existing bridgehead at Antonivskyi Bridge above Oleshky, gave Ukraine tacit control along a stretch of riverfront running for at least 20 kilometers.

The fact that Ukraine was able to complete these crossings, and that Russia wasn’t able to immediately drive back these small forces, suggests that Russia doesn’t have significant force, or even good visibility, along the Dnipro. Instead, Russia seems to be concentrated on garrisoning towns located some distance away from the river and protecting the artillery emplacements it uses to strike Ukrainian positions on the right bank.

Then in mid-October came the first reports that Ukraine had made another crossing near the village of Krynky. And that crossing … may be different.

Krynky is one of those villages along the Dnipro that suffered heavy flooding after Russian forces destroyed the dam at Nova Kakhovka in June.

Buildings were destroyed. People were stranded on rooftops. Barns, sheds, and some homes were washed away. Before the invasion, around 1,000 people lived in Krynky. But between the war and the flooding, it seems all but deserted now.

Even in the first few days of the crossing near Krynky, Ukraine was reportedly able to infiltrate troops among the sodden, quiet streets. As a result, Russia began heavily shelling what was left of this location. Despite this, there were repeated claims that Ukraine had brought additional forces across the river in this area. Not dozens of troops this time, but hundreds.

Reports that Ukraine was using M3 Amphibious Rigs provided by Germany proliferated, along with reports that trucks, Humvees, mortars, and other heavy weapons had been ferried across. This video shows German forces training Ukrainians on the use of the M3.

The M3 was specifically designed not just to transport infantry, light vehicles, and supplies, but as a means of rapidly ferrying armored vehicles, including tanks, across rivers. In the past week, reports have come in that Ukraine has begun doing exactly this: bringing armored vehicles across the river for the first time.

That image appears to show a BTR-4E infantry fighting vehicle. How important that armor has been on the left bank so far isn’t clear, but there are multiple reports that Ukraine has liberated most of Krynky’s flood-stained streets, driven Russian forces into wooded regions to the south, moved some distance along the road toward Korsunka, and even pushed Russian forces out of some of their positions in the wooded area to move close to the T2206 highway.

Some sites, such as Deep State, don’t yet reflect any change on their map and continue to show a long strip along the river as contested, with Krynky under Russian control. Others, such as Andrew Perpetua, show Ukraine driving almost 2 kilometers into the area of Russian occupation. The most optimistic estimates have Ukraine actually moving past Krynky and driving Russian forces farther south.

This is the latest publicly available satellite imagery from Sentinel-2 with a rough idea of where Ukraine is moving and where Russian forces have deployed.

Ukrainian forces now appear to be moving around the area in large numbers without suffering obvious attacks. There have also been Telegram reports that Russia opened fire on its own retreating troops in this area. Russia has defensive positions in those woods south of the town, but these appear to be much less developed than anything along the southern front.

However, there are additional reports that air defenses on both sides are down. Ukraine reportedly took out Russian defenses located east of Krynky, but Russia also took down Ukrainian air defenses across the river. With the skies essentially wide open, Ukrainian forces are reporting that Russia is making heavy use of glide bombs. These don’t have the accuracy of high-precision weaponry, but they make up for it in part by being large. Russia has been hitting Krynky, the riverfront, and locations across the river where Ukrainian forces had mustered for crossing.

If Ukraine can reach the T2206 highway (labeled M-14 on the satellite image), or take it under fire, that would limit a major Russian supply line to the area. Forces moving toward Korsunka may also be able to cut a rail line used to move Russian supplies along the front.

At the same time this is happening, there are also reports that Ukraine has bolstered its forces near the Antonivskyi Bridge. With control over the riverbank for at least 30 kilometers and Ukraine’s apparent success at Krynky, it seems likely that Russia will need to shift more forces into the area. That could have a trickle-down effect on fights going on elsewhere.

But as cool as the M3 Amphibious Rig may be, a sustained Ukrainian presence on the left bank would seem to demand a bridge. Ukraine might be able to repair the Antonivskyi Bridge well enough to get a line of vehicles and supplies across. The rail bridge at Prydniprovske looks to be a hopeless task, with almost half its span missing. The other option might be the Kakhovka Bridge across the broken dam, but it would be difficult to work in that area unless Ukraine first liberates Nova Kakhovka.

Really, there are no easy answers. Here is satellite imagery, all within the past week, of the three options in the area.

Antonivskyi Bridge

Prydniprovske rail bridge

Kakhovka dam and bridge

Maybe Ukraine can keep surprising everyone by bringing in armor and supplies using ferries. It’s a long way from perfect, but so far it seems to be working.

As Ukrainian units cross the Dnipro River and begin to threaten Russian control of the region we’ll take a closer look at what we know about those activities.


Here’s where things stand. On Oct. 30, Ukrainian forces (reportedly elements of the 35th Marine Brigade) launched a raid across the Dnipro River, about 30 kilometers east of the city of Kherson. This appeared at first to be one of many raids Ukrainian forces had launched on the left bank of the Dnipro. (Ukraine refers to the right and left banks by looking downstream. In this case, that’s the eastern and southern banks of the Dnipro.) 


Ukraine currently controls or contests a narrow strip of land that extends at most 2 to 3 kilometers from the Dnipro riverbank.  A series of small islands and marshy lowlands cover much of the area directly south of the river in this area, along with small tributary streams that split off and remerge with the main river.

Left bank of Dnipro River near Kherson June 28, 2023

The Dnipro River itself varies between a width of 800 to 1,200 meters in this area—wide enough that crossing the river poses a significant challenge. Even after crossing the river, Ukrainian forces must contend with watery marshland, outside of a few paved roads around Antonivka (near Kherson) and around where the Kakhovka Dam used to be located further upstream.

There is also an inoperable railroad line that runs through the marsh from the remains of the destroyed Antonivka rail bridge, but no paved roads.

Ukraine can bring over light infantry, all-terrain vehicles, and even heavy equipment at different landing sites. A secure river crossing is vital to supply any large mechanized force. And capturing a few villages near the riverbank won’t permit Ukrainian operations deeper into Kherson Oblast without first securing an inland road—and that means either capturing Oleshky (south of the Antonivskyi Bridge site) or Nova Kakhovka—the only two places where roads lead inland from the riverbank. There is no other way to supply any march toward Crimea or Melitopol with the fuel, ammunition, spare parts, food, water, and other equipment necessary to feed an advancing army. 

As such, I doubt Ukraine has crossed the Dnipro in a serious operational or strategic sense. That is, they’re not ready to liberate the rest of Kherson oblast or march on Crimea. The marshlands and small villages Ukraine has liberated will gain broader significance only if they serve as a springboard for the liberation of key supply routes. 

Ukraine’s Kherson incursion will get serious only if they liberty Oleshky or Nova Kakhovka, her highlighted in white

In addition to an inland supply route, Ukraine also needs a secure way to move supplies across the river.

Currently, all three bridges over the Dnipro River in Kherson are out of commission, fully disabled by the Russians after their retreat from the northern part of Kherson last November. Here’s recent satellite data of all three.

The Antonivskyi Bridge:

Antonivskyi Road Bridge

The Prydniprovske Rail Bridge is looking particularly gone:

Prydniprovske Rail Bridge

And the Nova Kakhovka dam bridge is shattered:

Kakhovka Dam Bridge

A closer look at the Antonivskyi Bridge shows the extent of the damage:

Drone view of the Antonivskyi Bridge

Daily Kos’ own Mark Sumner used Sentinel satellite imagery to estimate the smaller gaps in the bridge to be at least 40-45 meters, but the large gap in the collapsed center section spans at least 110 meters, and possibly a few hundred meters.

Currently, Ukraine is using Soviet-era PTS-2 Amphibious transports to ferry supplies across the river.

The PTS-2 is a tracked amphibious vehicle that can carry up to 12 tons of supplies over water. It is large enough to transport lighter Ukrainian armored vehicles or Humvees. On Nov. 7, images of an abandoned and burning Ukrainian armored Humvee struck by a Russian drone were posted on social media, confirming that Ukraine has already been moving vehicles across the river. 

In addition to the PTS-2, Ukraine also has some Western amphibious transportation options:

Ukraine has received numerous M3 Amphibious Bridging Vehicles and PFM Motorized Bridge Sections. These bridging vehicles can be linked together to create bridges, but they can also be used as military ferries. For example, just three M3 ABVs can be linked together to create a ferry that can carry 2 western MBTs. The PFM motorized bridge sections can be used similarly.

Much of this bridging equipment began to be delivered this spring, as Ukrainian allies began playing weapon deliveries closer to the vest. Ukraine received at least 6 German-made M3 ABVs from the Netherlands, but there are rumors that they received more.  Germany’s Bundeswehr also uses the M3 ABV in its engineering corps, and it provided undisclosed “light and heavy bridging assets” that may include some M3 ABVs. The UK, Sweden, Latvia, and the Netherlands all use the M3 ABV, thus it would not be surprising if Ukraine had as many as a dozen or two M3 ABVs.

There are likely to be fairly limited numbers of these precious amphibious supply vessels. So to sustain any significant force, Ukraine needs a bridge.

Pontoon bridge

One option is to do what Russia did when Ukraine knocked out the bridges over the Dnipro River: build a pontoon bridge. U.S. Army pontoon bridges can be both extremely lengthy and have a hefty carrying capacity. They are capable of supporting M1 Abrams Tanks weighing over 70 tons.

For example, the U.S. Army built a pontoon bridge crossing the Sava River into Bosnia to support NATO peacekeeping operations. The temporary bridge supplied over 20,000 NATO troops, the bulk of which was the U.S. Army’s 1st Armored Division—with logistically demanding M1 Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

Russia built their pontoon bridge alongside the former Antonivskyi Bridge in 24 hours. If Ukraine were to attempt the same, the process might be expected to take about a single day. For example, the 10th Operational Corps of Ukraine that conducted the Ukrainian offensive toward Tokmak around Robotyne was estimated at around 20,000 soldiers, so a single pontoon bridge would likely be enough to support a major Ukrainian offensive into Kherson oblast—if the bridge could be kept intact.

As the Russians have repeatedly discovered, keeping a pontoon bridge within enemy artillery range operation is no easy task. Remember this heavily meme’d video? 

Two Russian attempts to construct a pontoon bridge across the Siverskyi Donets River resulted in that famous Russian catastrophe at Bilohorivka.


Ukraine similarly struck and destroyed Russian pontoons across the Dnipro near Kherson on multiple occasions, such as in August and October 2022. Ukraine used a combination of precision-guided artillery mentions and HIMARS GMLRS guided rockets to target these Russian logistical routes with pinpoint accuracy from as much as 40+ kilometers away.

WFEL Dry Support Bridge. Who wants to drive over that?

If not pontoon bridges, what then? 

The U.S. Army has the rapidly deployable WFEL dry support bridge that can span up to 46 meters, falling short of what would be needed for that larger gap. 

The Mabey Logistics Bridge system used by the British Corps of Engineers as well as the U.S. Army can span up to 50 meters of open space, but more importantly, can span hundreds of meters with support struts anchored to the ground.

The Romanian Army was able to assemble a 98-meter Mabey bridge in just six days, which can support Western Tanks weighing over 80 tons.

While Ukraine has systematically targeted bridges to disrupt Russian supply routes, Russia has taken a different approach. Russia still has a substantial arsenal of cruise and ballistic missiles like the Iskander and Kalibr missiles, yet Russian strikes on bridges have been quite rare.

In April 2022, Russia set its sights on destroying the Zatoka Bridge south of Odesa, a key civilian trade route with Moldova. Hundreds of kilometers behind any front lines, Russia had to rely on long-range missile strikes to hit the target.

In 2022, Russia launched unimpeded missile salvos on Apr. 26, Apr. 27, May 2, May 17, and July 19, before Western air defense systems had arrived—yet failed to take the bridge out of commission. Russia simply couldn’t score a direct hit. As such, the bridge remained operational until February 2023, when Russia finally managed to put the bridge out of commission … using a naval drone.

This may explain why Russia has relied predominantly on tube artillery to take out bridges in Ukrainian-held territory.

During the Battle of Severodonetsk in the summer of 2022, Russia repeatedly attempted to take out the three bridges that connected Severodonetsk to the city of Lyshychansk. Russia finally succeeded on July 14, 2022, but only when the fighting had moved into the industrial section of the city, just 4 kilometers from their target.

Similarly, during the Battle of Bakhmut, Russia moved to take out a small bridge across a stream west of Bakhmut close to the village of Khromove, but only succeeded when they pushed up to the Bakhmutivka River, just 5 kilometers or so from the bridge.

Faced with Ukrainian bridging of the Dnipro, Russia could potentially deploy its FAB1500-M54 glide bombs, just recently entering battle in September. These bombs are massive, weighing in at 1,500 kilograms (3,300 pounds), far larger than the 227 kilogram (500 pounds) JDAM GPS-guided glide bombs that Ukraine typically uses, or the 500 kilogram (1,100 pounds) glide bombs Russia has been using since February 2023. Using a lobbed trajectory, these glide bombs can reportedly be deployed as far as 40 kilometers away, allowing Russian aircraft to strike front-line targets without coming suicidally close to Ukrainian air defense systems.

Russia claims these bombs have an accuracy of CEP<15m, meaning 50% of the bombs will strike within a circle with a radius of 15 meters. Western analysts almost uniformly believe these claims to be exaggerated.

Russian glide bombs rely on the GLOSNAST constellation of coordinate guidance, which is more than a generation behind the U.S. GPS system. The UMPK guidance module attached to these bombs were highly improvised and rushed into production—and from recovered copies almost completely built with Western electronic components. The CEP of these weapons are more likely to be two or three times greater than the claimed CEP accuracy—meaning 30-45 meters.

A standard U.S. Army pontoon bridge is just 5.7 meters wide. A direct hit from a Russian glide bomb is extremely unlikely, although the sheer power of a 3,300-pound bomb can do a great deal of damage within a broad radius. Still, when striking floating targets, the concussive effect of the bomb is partially absorbed by the water, and a low-lying flexible structure is least likely to be affected by shockwaves from a powerful but distant explosion.

A direct strike from a highly accurate 500-pound or smaller munition is much more likely to cause damage than a powerful and inaccurate 3,300-pound bomb when striking a bridge—partly explaining Russian difficulties with hitting small targets and their general reliance on area-bombing.

Furthermore, the most advanced Western air defense systems have proved highly effective at deterring glide-bombing attacks on key targets. After a series of glide-bombing strikes on Ukrainian positions near Krynky on Nov. 4 and 5, Russian military blogger Romanov noted that Ukraine shifted Iris-T air defense systems within a few kilometers of the village on the opposite side of the river, now protecting the area from slow-flying glide bombs.

Given the success of Western air defense systems in intercepting Russian planes, cruise missiles, glide bombs, and drones, a concentrated and layered Ukrainian air defense near a bridge site could be reasonably expected to protect it from Russian air strikes. Control of the waterways would protect against the kind of water drones that destroyed the Zatoka Bridge. That means Ukraine’s final challenge would be to protect any new bridge from Russian artillery. 

Securing the Antonivskyi Bridge site would almost require capturing the town of Oleshky, and likely the surrounding villages of Pishchanivka, Poima, Sahy, and Pidlisne.

To protect a bridging attempt, Ukraine would have to push Russian forces beyond this 10 kilometer radius

Securing the Kakhovka Dam Bridge would represent a similar challenge, requiring the liberation of the town of Nova Kakhovka and several surrounding villages.

Ukraine’s current methodical advances in this area are creating the conditions where all of this might be possible. Russia clearly sees Ukrainian gains as a serious threat. 

No Russian tank losses had been reported in Kherson for weeks, suggesting that perhaps they had been moved to other active fronts. Then, on Nov. 6, Russia lost two T-72 tanks outside Krynky, followed by an advanced T-90M north of Pidsteppe on Nov. 7. Both Ukraine and Russia appear to be moving heavy equipment into this area as the fighting escalates.

Could this represent the beginning of a major Ukrainian operation in this area? Most definitely.

Russia has far fewer fortifications in Kherson oblast than in Zaporizhzhia to the east.

It’s clear that Russia has far fewer fortifications (red lines and dots) in Kherson, than in Zaporizhzhia to the east

If Ukraine can secure a supply route across the river, Ukraine could threaten Russian defenses around Melitopol and the Surovikin line from behind. From there, it would be just a little over 100 kilometers (60 miles) to Crimea.

But the challenge of securing that initial bridgehead is immense. Amphibious assaults are considered among the most difficult operations in war. Ukraine may need to rely on predominantly light infantry forces supported by smaller numbers of heavy armored vehicles to secure a safe bridgehead.

Russian military blogger/propagandist Rybar has been warning that Ukraine is moving significant numbers of marines to Kherson, which would be the best elite light infantry unit for this task. They are trained to fight predominantly dismounted, moving by Humvee and MaxxPro armored trucks with minimal armor support.

The coming weeks will show if this is merely a Ukrainian fixing operation—designed to force Russia to weaken other fronts by reinforcing this one—or the real deal.


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