Ukraine probes Kherson defences, advances in east and south

Ukrainian reconnaissance units landed on the left bank of the Dnipro river, probing Russian defences and suggesting a new front may open.

A Ukrainian service member of the 128th Separate Territorial Defence Brigade attends military exercises at a training ground, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine August 16, 2023. REUTERS/Viacheslav Ratynskyi
A Ukrainian service member of the 128th Separate Territorial Defence Brigade attends military exercises in the Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine, on August 16, 2023 [Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters]

Ukrainian forces launched a new effort to land troops on the left bank of the Dnipro river in the 77th week of the war, where flooding after the destruction of the Kakhovka dam in June had made counteroffensive action impossible.

Ukrainian forces also continued to make incremental territorial gains 10 weeks after launching their counteroffensive.

Reports suggested that Ukraine had at least partially taken the town of Urozhaine on the Zaporizhia-Donetsk border, and advanced on Robotyne in the western Zaporizhia region.

At the same time, Ukraine has withstood a major ongoing Russian offensive against the eastern town of Kupiansk, in what is seen as an apparent attempt to weaken Ukraine’s advances elsewhere.

Ukraine also continued to target supply lines deep in Russian rear areas.

Russia’s defence ministry claimed to have foiled a Ukrainian attack on the Kerch bridge on the night of August 11 and to have shot down 20 Ukrainian drones over Crimea.

The left bank

Russian military reporters said Ukrainian reconnaissance groups were landing on the left bank of the Dnipro river west of Kozachi Laheri in the Kherson region in the days before August 11.

“The village is under the control of the Russian Armed Forces. However, the presence of the Armed Forces of Ukraine west of the camps is a fact,” one reporter wrote.

Russian positions were reportedly firing on the suspected locations of the Ukrainian units but were not sending ground forces.

Ukrainian special forces also continued to operate near the Antonovsky bridge, the reports said, despite the fact that Russia’s defence ministry claimed to have dislodged them on July 3.

Kherson is where Ukraine scored one of its largest territorial gains in September, but the area has been a largely ignored sector of the battlefield during the counteroffensive that began on June 4. That is due to the area remaining inoperable after the destruction of the Kakhovka dam on June 6, which flooded hundreds of square kilometres on both sides of the river.

Ukraine’s general staff said Russian forces, which had been in control of the dam, destroyed its engine room in order to make it impossible for Ukrainian forces to counterattack in the area, even though this also forced Russian units to pull back from their flooded defences for a period of time.

About a month later, once the flooding had subsided and the ground had dried, Ukraine reported that Russian units were returning to their positions and stepping up artillery attacks against the Ukrainian-held right bank of the river in order to deter crossings.

Those artillery tactics continued last week, according to Russian reporters, but it was not clear if they had been effective.

“An effective Russian mechanized counterattack could threaten this Ukrainian advance position, but it is unclear if Russian forces possess the mechanized reserves necessary to do so,” wrote the Washington-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War.

If Ukraine’s creeping reclamation of the left bank succeeded in establishing a bridgehead and landing mechanised units, it could open a new front against Russian positions in the south.


Geolocated footage posted on August 12 suggested that Ukrainian forces had entered the town of Urozhaine on the Zaporizhia-Donetsk border.

Russian military reporters claimed the Vostok battalion, which was defending the area, had abandoned positions in the northern part of Urozhaine and was fighting a rear-guard action in the south.

“For several days we withstood [Ukraine’s] onslaught, but somewhere there was a failure,” the battalion posted on the Telegram messaging app. “We are still fighting back, but the situation is not in our favour … it’s a matter of time.”

Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar confirmed that Ukrainian forces were successful in Urozhaine and in the area of neighbouring Staromayorske, a town they recaptured on July 27, and were “taking hold of achieved boundaries”.

“No additional forces from the reserve were involved in this sector, no new artillery battalions were deployed – the battles are being fought with the forces that are available. Let’s just say – poor forces,” wrote Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of the Vostok, wrote on Telegram.

Ukrainian forces also appeared to advance in western Zaporizhia, where they approached the town of Robotyne on August 11.

Russian reporters said Chechen fighters had been redeployed to reinforce the area, something confirmed by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

Ukrainian forces launched a large push towards Robotyne on June 26, and have kept Russian forces there on the defensive for seven weeks.

Russia’s reinforcement of Robotyne is unusual. Its inability to quickly move reinforcements to stressed areas of the front has been noted many times before.

Russian armed forces chief Valery Gerasimov reportedly dismissed General Ivan Popov last month for complaining that his troops were overstretched and in need of rotation in western Zaporizhia.

The eastern front

Russian forces continued an offensive towards Ukraine’s eastern city of Kupiansk, with some reports of success.

Ukraine, too, claimed to have advanced three square kilometres south of Bakhmut, an area that it is trying to encircle.

“Heavy battles continue in the Bakhmut direction. The enemy is trying to stop the advance of our troops and restore lost positions in the areas west of Klishchiivka, Andriivka, and Kurdyumivka,” said deputy defence minister Maliar.

“In the past week, the freed territory in the Bakhmut direction has been increased by 3sq km, and the total freed area in the Bakhmut direction is 40sq km.,” Maliar wrote.

Ukrainian Colonel Petro Chernyk told Ukrainian army media that the Russian offensive in Kupiansk aimed to relieve pressure on Bakhmut, where large numbers of Russian forces are committed.

“Bakhmut is in the lowlands, and all the dominant heights are under our control. So our defence forces are methodically exterminating their contingent there,” he told the ArmyInform news site.

“It may come to such a scenario that a real encirclement will take place and their units will have only two options: be destroyed or surrender. If this were to happen, it would be a really serious step forward and a breakthrough in their defence and, above all, motivation,” he said.

Chernyk said Russia had enough men to achieve a great numerical superiority in personnel at Kupiansk, but not the machinery.

Vadym Skibitskyi, the deputy head of Ukrainian military intelligence, downplayed the Kupiansk offensive as reactive.

“Operations carried out by Russia do not have a strategic military nature, they are only localised attacks,” he told the Financial Times.

Source: Al Jazeera