Is a new front opening in Ukraine? While the positions of the Russian and Ukrainian armies are becoming inexorably entrenched all along the front line, “heavy fighting” has been going on for several weeks on the left bank of the Dnipro River, which was taken over by Moscow’s troops in February 2022 and has been occupied ever since. Kyiv’s forces “carried out a series of successful actions” between the dam – destroyed in June this year – at Nova Kakhovka and the mouth of the Dnipro, the Ukrainian Marine Infantry Command said on Friday, November 17, claiming the capture of “several bridgeheads ” in this area and “heavy losses” inflicted on the enemy.
The Ukrainians have actually been conducting operations in this region for almost a year now. Since the liberation of the port city of Kherson, in November 2022, and the withdrawal of Russian troops from the right bank of the Dnipro, small detachments regularly cross the river, using inflatable boats, to identify enemy positions. “They come to map the banks and beaches, in particular to determine the position of Russian river mines,” said Stéphane Audrand, an international risk consultant and reserve officer. They usually operate at night, to avoid detection by enemy drones, and withdraw after a few hours.
Since June, these incursions have multiplied and, above all, the Ukrainians have begun to hold positions on the ground. A first fixation point was spotted at the foot of the Antonivsky road bridge, northwest of Kherson. Other soldiers then moved on to the railway bridge of the same name, a little further up the river. Each time, these structures, which were partly destroyed during the Russian withdrawal, enabled the Ukrainians to take shelter from retaliatory strikes, even though the region is mainly made up of marshes and sandy moors, with little relief to hide or take cover.
Dnipro’s left bank is poorly defended
Throughout the summer and since early autumn, Kyiv’s troops have been moving up the river, taking up positions as far as the village of Krynky, not far from the old Nova Kakhovka dam.
On November 19, army officer Natalia Humeniuk stated that several hundred soldiers were now occupying a strip some 50 kilometers long and “3 to 8 kilometers” wide. If these figures were confirmed, this would be the Ukrainian army’s biggest advance since its attempt – so far aborted – to break through Russian fortification lines in the south of the country, notably near the village of Robotyne.
Officially, the Ukrainian General Staff claims to be carrying out these actions to keep Moscow’s forces away from Kherson, which had a pre-war population of some 280,000 and has been regularly targeted by Russian artillery since its evacuation in autumn 2022. On Monday, the shelling of a parking lot there left two people dead and two wounded, according to the regional administration. “The further the Russians are from the river, the less they’ll be able to use their observation drones and the less accurate their artillery will be,” confirmed Audrand.
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