Ukrainian forces claim bridgeheads across key Russian strategic barrier

17 November 2023, 15:04

Ukrainian marines
Russia Ukraine War. Picture: PA

Nearly 3,500 Russians have been killed or wounded in the fighting, Ukrainian military chiefs said.

Ukraine’s troops have secured multiple bridgeheads on the eastern bank of the Dnieper River in the Kherson region in fighting that the country’s marine corps described as having left nearly 3,500 Russians killed or wounded and dozens of ammunition depots, tanks, armoured vehicles and other weaponry destroyed.

The Marine Infantry Command’s claims were the first to come directly from the Ukrainian military about advances across one of Russia’s most significant strategic barriers.

Earlier this week, Andriy Yermak, the head of the president’s office, confirmed for the first time that Ukraine had established a foothold on the eastern side of the river.

The wide river is a natural dividing line along the southern battlefront, and Moscow’s forces have used it since leaving the area around the city of Kherson in November 2022 to prevent Ukrainian troops from advancing farther toward Russian-annexed Crimea.

Troops are trying to push Russian forces away from the Dnieper to stop shelling that has routinely struck civilian areas on the Ukrainian-held west bank, the general staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a report.

Western intelligence officials said Ukraine has portions of three brigades across the river and is expected to make small gains as the Russians have so far been unable to repel them.

“The Ukrainians have seen an opportunity there and taken it,” one official said. “What we’ve not seen is the Russians being able to push them back from that position.”

The Associated Press could not independently confirm the Ukrainian reports of establishing a foothold on the river’s eastern bank or the marine command’s battlefield claims. Ukraine did not disclose the number of its own casualties.

Ukraine provided no timeline for how long it took to establish its position across the Dniper River.

Its forces have crossed the river in small groups since the summer to create a beachhead near the Kherson bridge, and more recently sought to expand their presence in nearby villages on the east bank.

Volodymyr Zelensky
Mr Zelensky hailed his country’s troops (AP)

The gains that could open up a path to Crimea are considered small in the overall ground war, which intelligence officials said was essentially at a standstill despite a Ukrainian counter-offensive that earlier in the year had been expected to alter the momentum.

“Neither side is currently capable of mounting decisive offensive operations on the land in the foreseeable future,” one official said.

Ukraine is struggling off the battlefield for support from allies as the world’s attention has turned to Israel’s war against Hamas militants on the Gaza Strip.

A US funding package passed on Thursday included no additional aid for Ukraine, and the European Union has said it cannot deliver the munitions it promised.

In a meeting with Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky lamented that the divided attention on two wars in the world had not helped his cause.

Lord Cameron was in Kyiv on his first diplomatic trip to show his support for Ukraine. But the visit came with no additional military funds.

Ukraine said its troops killed more than 1,200 Russian soldiers and wounded more than 2,200 in a series of operations to establish its position on the eastern riverbank.

It said it destroyed 29 ammunition stores, two dozen tanks, four dozen armoured combat vehicles, 89 artillery systems, watercraft, command posts and other vehicles.

Mr Zelensky posted photos on social media Friday of troops in small motor boats reaching the eastern side of the river.

“The Kherson region’s left bank. Our warriors,” Mr Zelenskyy wrote. “I thank them for their strength and for moving forward.”

When news of Ukraine’s advances across the river were reported earlier in the week, the Moscow-appointed governor for the Russia-occupied part of the Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo, said Ukrainian forces are facing a “fiery hell” in fighting in the village of Krynky and are being destroyed “on a large scale”.

Mr Saldo said on Telegram that Ukraine had lost up to two battalions crossing the river and trying to maintain their hold on the east bank.

Those claims could not be independently verified.

By Press Association

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