Russia Completes Pontoon Bridge Across Dnipro River In Kherson

The bridge’s completion comes as Russia orders citizens out of Kherson, which could complicate Ukrainian efforts to destroy the crossing.

byHoward Altman, Tyler Rogoway| PUBLISHED Oct 19, 2022 2:39 PM
Russia Completes Pontoon Bridge Across Dnipro River In Kherson
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As Ukraine continues to press its southern counteroffensive closer to Kherson City and Moscow has ordered an evacuation of civilians there, Russian forces have completed the assembly of a barge bridge across the Dnipro River. Retaking the city and controlling the banks of the Dnipro there is absolutely critical for Ukraine. You can read all about this reality in this recent article of ours.

According to satellite imagery, the new makeshift bridge spans the same part of the river as the Antonovskiy Bridge, which was made unusable earlier in the summer by High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) strikes on the Russian forces' main logistical link over the Dnipro River. Since then, ferry service has been used to traverse the river from bank to bank, but capacity has been severely limited compared to what the bridge once provided.

A satellite view of the now-destroyed Antonovskiy Bridge linking Kherson City with the south side of the Dnipro River. (Google Earth satellite image)

Assembly of a new crossing, a series of barges strung together right beside the Antonovskiy Bridge, began not long after. You can read more about this in our coverage here. HIMARS attacks continued on the same point on the span above to barges over the last couple of months, making it impossible for Russians to repair the bridge even to the point it can even be used for limited purposes.

It is unclear at the moment why Ukraine, which is now well within reach of the bridge with standard howitzers, has not now or previously attempted to destroy the pontoon bridge. In May, for instance, Russian forces attempting to cross the Siverskyi Donets by building a pontoon bridge were obliterated by Ukrainian attacks. Doing something similar in Kherson could trap Russian forces, which means there would be a very bloody fight for the city as they would have limited means of rapid evacuation if they were ordered to do so. Avoiding such a fight could be seen as advantageous to Ukraine's forces who have also taken heavy losses in recent months.

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The barge bridge sits right next to and nearly under the main span, which could also make targeting it problematic.

It's also worth noting that Russia could have waited to finish the makeshift crossing until it could put particular plans into action. This would keep it from becoming such an enticing target for Ukrainian forces. It looks like the remaining part of the barge bridge, roughly two-fifths of the river's span, was finally assembled in recent days.

Case in point, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration Wednesday of martial law in Kherson Oblast and three other regions in Ukraine. This decree included orders to evacuate civilians, which may greatly complicate any efforts to take the improvised bridge out now. And this announcement very well could have been part of the plan in terms of the timing of the bridge's completion.

Russian-appointed officials in Kherson Oblast are already beginning the process of moving “tens of thousands of civilians” out of the region, according to BBC, citing the Russian-installed head of the oblast.

Vladimir Saldo said all Russian-appointed departments and ministries would cross the Dnipro River.

“Some 50-60,000 civilians would also leave in an "organized, gradual displacement," he said earlier, according to BBC.

Ukraine has called on residents to ignore the Russian move, but many are heeding the order.

Ukrainian officials have been reluctant to disclose much information about the Kherson counteroffensive. We reached out to see if they can talk about why the pontoon bridge was not attacked and will update this story if and when they respond.

This is a developing story. Stay with The War Zone for updates.

Contact the author: howard@thewarzone.com

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