Ukraine Situation Report: Claims Swirl Around River Landing By Kyiv’s Forces
Ukraine may be looking to take advantage of the redeployment of seasoned Russian troops from Kherson to Zaporizhzhia and the Donbas.
It appears that Ukraine tried to establish another small bridgehead on the Russian-occupied side of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast Tuesday. This latest cross-river incursion may be an attempt to take advantage of seasoned Russian forces leaving to reinforce against Kyiv’s counteroffensive elsewhere.
Russian Telegram channels say a small force of Ukrainian troops on Tuesday entered Kozachi Lageri, a town about two miles south of the Dnipro River and just on the other side of the much smaller Konka River.
It’s unclear at the moment how many Ukrainian troops have entered Kozachi Lageri, or how successful the incursion is. But Russian Telegram channels say this is a move by Ukraine to take advantage of Russia’s need to bolster the front lines in Zaporizhzhia and the Donbas, where elements of Russia's vaunted Airborne units have transferred.
“After the replacement of the Airborne Forces units, which had been operating there for a long time, attacks on Russian positions intensified with new formations of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” the Russian Two Majors Telegram channel wrote on Tuesday. “The goal, in this case, is simple - to take advantage of the inexperience and ignorance of [the new troops] to create a bridgehead on the left bank.”
There is a difference of opinion among Russian Telegram channels about the success of the Kozachi Lageri advance.
Two Majors said that under the cloud of smoke to obfuscate their movement, six or seven boats full of six- to seven-man Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance teams crossed the Konka River, not far from where Ukrainian forces forded it late last month.
Ukrainian forces “took advantage of the replacement at the forefront and struck from the flank, reaching a settlement on the banks of the Dnipro,” Two Majors wrote. “The effect of surprise and belated reaction allowed the Armed Forces of Ukraine to land and advance unhindered towards [Kozachi Lageri], after which the Russian troops had already driven them back.”
The Russian The 13th Telegram channel offered a different assessment, reporting that Ukraine occupied the town and advanced 800 meters into Russian-held territory.
“This is a very bad trend,” The 13th reported.
The Romanov Telegram channel “also confirms the information, including the possible preparation of a crossing for vehicles.”
As we noted back in January, any large-scale attempt to cross the Dnipro is a huge challenge. A major Ukrainian river crossing, using pontoon bridges, “is impossible” right now due to the ongoing Russian shelling, a Ukrainian military advisor told us at the time. The Russians, you might remember, came under tremendous fire trying to get across the river during their retreat from Kherson City last fall.
However, given that Russia may also be transferring artillery batteries to Zaporizhzhia and the Donbas, Ukraine may be looking for opportunities to bring more troops across the Dnipro, which at 50 miles from Crimea is far closer to the occupied peninsula than the current front lines near Robotyne, some 130 miles to the northwest of it.
But even with Russia shifting forces to the front lines, it still seems to possess formidable tubed and rocket-launched artillery, plus swarms of drones that would impede any such crossing attempts.
Still, the Russian Two Majors Telegram channel sees an increase in Ukrainian attempts to advance on the Russian side of the Dnipro.
“In recent days, [Kozachi Lageri] is not the only area where the enemy is trying to gain a foothold,” Two Majors reported Tuesday. “Gunfights were also noted near the railway bridge near Pishchanivka, where the [Russian] Armed Forces achieved little tactical success.”
Ukrainian forces, meanwhile, are still dug in near the Antonovsky Bridge, according to Two Majors. On Monday, a Ukrainian effort to reinforce that bridgehead was thwarted, Two Majors claimed. It's the latest in a situation at that location that has been going on for more than a month.
There was also an advance across the Dnipro about 12 miles northwest of Kozachi Lageri that we wrote about on Saturday. That status of that bridgehead is unclear.
Ukrainian officials are saying little about the fight in Kherson, but on Monday, the Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR) acknowledged that one of its special units is operating in Russian-held territory there.
“The fighters of the special purpose unit GUR of the Ministry of Defense, the Shaman Battalion, are moving deep into the occupied territories and continue to cause losses to the enemy,” the GUR reported on its website Monday. “Thanks to their actions, one of the units of the racist 'special-purpose missile troops' were destroyed.” You can read more about the Shaman Battalion, which has also been carrying out raids inside Russia, in our exclusive interview with the group's leader here.
Regardless of what either side is saying, NASA's Fire Information For Resources Management System (FIRMS) imaging seems to show what may be an increased level of artillery fire taking place in this area, @CasualArtyFan noted in a Tuesday Tweet.
Given the fog of war, it’s hard to say exactly what is going on in the Russian-occupied part of Kherson Oblast. But we will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates when available.
Before we head into the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.
There was another dour media analysis of Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive, this time by CNN. The outlet reported on Tuesday that “Western officials describe increasingly 'sobering' assessments about Ukrainian forces’ ability to retake significant territory."
CNN cited “four senior US and Western officials briefed on the latest intelligence.”
“They’re still going to see, for the next couple of weeks, if there is a chance of making some progress. But for them to really make progress that would change the balance of this conflict, I think, it’s extremely, highly unlikely,” a senior Western diplomat told CNN.
“Our briefings are sobering. We’re reminded of the challenges they face,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat who recently returned from meetings in Europe with U.S. commanders training Ukrainian armored forces. “This is the most difficult time of the war.”
Ukraine would have had a much easier time rolling out its counteroffensive if Western allies acted sooner, says Jack Watling, Senior Research Fellow for Land Warfare at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in an editorial he published Tuesday on the organization’s website.
Following retreats in Kharkiv and Kherson last fall and its misguided attempt at a winter advance in the east with conscripts and other poorly trained troops, Russia found itself especially vulnerable to a counterpunch in early 2023, Watling said. But a delay in providing Ukraine badly needed Western aid led to a failure to capitalize on that weakness and drastically increased the cost in blood and treasure of Kyiv's slow-moving counteroffensive.
By April 2022 it was clear that Ukraine would eventually go on the attack, Watling noted. Its requirements to do so were largely known by Western officials in July. But it wasn’t until January 2023 that the U.S. and allies finally signed off on providing Challenger 2 and M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks as well as heavy armor like U.S. Bradley Fighting Vehicles, German Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicles and French AMX-10 RC armored vehicles. That armor - along with Leopard 2 tanks donated by a variety of countries that first arrived in Ukraine in February - is now in the fight. However, as we wrote yesterday, the initial tranche of 31 Abrams tanks won't even reach the front line units until next month.
“The delay between knowing what was needed and agreeing to do it has proven very costly,” Watling wrote. “The disarray among Russian forces in the winter of 2022–3 following a chaotic mobilization and a lack of preparedness for winter warfare left them vulnerable early in 2023. Luckily for Ukraine and its partners, this weakness was extended by the stupidity of General Valery Gerasimov, who embarked upon an ill-conceived series of offensive operations using under-trained troops throughout February, slowing the preparation of Russian defenses.”
But the long debate in the West about heavy armor for Ukraine wasted that luck, said Watling. It gave Russia more time to regroup and dig in and less time for Ukrainian troops to train on their new equipment.
“Ukraine was therefore forced to go on the offensive before its units were fully prepared, because not doing so would have seen the task exceed the capabilities of the available forces,” said Watling. “Had the decision to equip and train Ukrainian forces been taken and implemented when the requirements were identified in the autumn, Ukraine would have had a much easier task in reclaiming its territory.”
"The Ukrainian offensive may yet succeed," said Watling. "But the price has risen steeply because of Western lethargy."
Speaking of tanks, a large batch of used Leopard 1 tanks that once belonged to Belgium have been bought by another European country for Ukrainian troops, according to Reuters, citing the arms trader who arranged the deal.
Freddy Versluys, CEO of defense company OIP Land Systems, bought the tanks from the Belgian government more than five years ago.
Versluys told Reuters he had now sold all 50 tanks to another European government, which he could not name due to a confidentiality clause. He said he also could not disclose the price.
The German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall is refurbishing the tanks, about 30 of which will be delivered to Ukraine, according to the German Handelsblatt news outlet.
Russia, meanwhile, has been pulling tanks and other armor out of deep storage.
A Moscow Times visual investigation into the effect of the war on Russian supplies determined that Moscow has withdrawn 40% of the old Soviet tanks and armored personnel carriers stored Russia's "largest known base” of mothballed military equipment.
The Vagzhanovo in Buryatia occupies about 11 square kilometers, according to the publication, “which is much more than the area of two dozen other known storage bases of military equipment in Russia.”
In September 2021 - five months before the full-on war - there were about 3,840 armored vehicles stored at the base, according to The Moscow Times, which derived its calculation based on Google Earth images. After eight months of war - in November 2022 - there were only about 2,600 armored vehicles. By May 2023, that figure dropped to about 2,270, according to the publication, accounting for the 40.8% reduction. Most of that - nearly a third - took place after Russia announced mobilization efforts in late 2022, according to The Moscow Times.
The Ukraine Weapons Tracker open-source intelligence page is reporting the first confirmed loss of a rare Russian Eleron T-16 drone, which they say was downed by the Ukrainian Stalevy Kordon Brigade in Kharkiv Oblast. The drone is capable of performing both reconnaissance and strike missions, with munitions mounted on hardpoints.
Ukrainian troops released an intense 11-minute, 33-second video of an encounter with Russian forces near Bakhmut. The video opens with the Ukrainians in an armored vehicle experiencing a machine gun jam as they engage Russian troops. They later dismount and the action only gets wilder from there.
Ukrainian First Person Video drones continue to create havoc for Russian troops. This video below, produced by Ukraine's state security service (SBU), shows a compilation of FPV drone attacks on Russian tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and even a remote monitoring station atop an electric transmission wire tower.
Several years ago, the so-called Donetsk People's Republic developed a 324mm multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) called the Snezhinka. Mounted on a KrAZ truck chassis, the homespun system contains two rockets with a reported range of about 9 km. You can watch them launch and strike targets in the video below.
And finally, Ukraine's Defense Ministry (MoD) continued its mastery of information operations. Playing on the spate of hot weather in Ukraine, the MoD sardonically reminded Russians it gets even hotter when munitions are dropped through vehicle hatches.
That's it for now. We'll provide more news about Ukraine when warranted.
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