Ukrainian officials say their military’s southern offensive is going slowly. They also say that is precisely the plan.
The announcement Monday of a thrust in the south raised hopes that Ukraine could reclaim territory Russia seized early in the war, including the regional capital of Kherson.
But success could take many shapes, say officials and Western analysts. Even without quickly regaining much ground, Kyiv can achieve progress by forcing Russia to expose its troop locations and supply bases, take a defensive posture and thereby appear weak or pull troops from other parts of the country. Ukraine can also gain intelligence about Russian formations, vulnerabilities and will to fight.
Ukrainian officials say they have neither the armor nor the manpower to make a quick advance. Instead, the military aims to weaken front-line Russian forces while also using long-range artillery and rockets, such as Himars provided by the U.S., to hit critical installations behind Russian lines such as command posts and ammunition depots.
Kherson sits on the west bank of the Dnipro River, which Russian troops must cross to enter, resupply or leave the city. Ukraine’s military says its strikes on bridges across the Dnipro and the smaller Inhulets River to the city’s northeast have largely cut supply lines to Russian forces in the city.
Russia has roughly 20,000 troops in and around Kherson, Western officials estimate, cautioning the figure isn’t precise. Trapping them could potentially force a surrender, allow Ukraine to decimate them or force them to flee. Whatever happens, Ukraine hopes to retake Kherson without having to engage in bloody street fighting.
Oleksiy Arestovych, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, called the strategy “the systemic grinding of Putin’s army.” He said Kyiv’s forces are working “to uncover their operational logistical supply system and destroy it with artillery and Himars,” a process that can take time.
“There’s no rush,” he said. [Continue reading…]