Ukrainian forces fighting during a stalemate scored a victory this week by securing a foothold on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, pushing back Russian forces on another front as Moscow struggles to make headway in its offensive attacks across eastern Ukraine.
Although Ukraine’s June counteroffensive raised hopes in the West for a breakthrough, the war has since turned into a brutal battle of attrition, with neither side making any real progress. With winter approaching, the next few months are unlikely to result in any surprise maneuvers across Ukraine’s 600-mile-long eastern front.
But Ukraine has opened a new front in the southern Kherson region by successfully landing troops across the Dnipro River and holding ground, which could put pressure on Russian forces and distract them from the battlefields of the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region.
“Against all odds, the Ukrainian Defense Forces have managed to gain a foothold on the left bank of the Dnipro River. Step by step they are demilitarizing Crimea,” said Andriy Ermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential office. It happened this week. “We know how to achieve victory.”
David Selby, a professor of military history and policy at Cornell University, said recent developments show Ukraine maintains a tactical advantage, even if Kiev faces the difficult task of a long war against a larger Russian army.
“Ukraine has a little bit of an upper hand, but it’s not much better than the stalemate itself,” Selby said. “What we have seen over the past two months reminds me of nothing so much as World War I matches, where progress is measured in yards, not miles. The injuries are absolutely horrific.”
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Selby added that Kherson’s foothold in Ukraine, a region that is linked to a valuable stronghold in the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula, is promising.
“This will certainly threaten Russia’s control over Crimea, and will make them worry about whether they can keep their forces in Crimea,” he added. “The big issue is actually keeping the logistics chain flowing. Because you have to carry everything across the river to support the forces there.”
Russian military blogger Rebar also noted that the Ukrainian advance in Kherson is worrying after Ukraine secured a bridgehead in a nearby village.
“The situation on the site is constantly difficult,” Ribar wrote on Telegram. “At present, the enemy has not abandoned its plans to expand the bridgehead on the left bank of the river [Dnipro]. The Ukrainian command will continue to carry out offensive operations in the area of \u200b\u200bthe occupied territories, therefore, despite the relative stability of the situation, it is too early to relax.
Ukraine has raided Russian positions across the Dnipro River before, but has not yet held a position on the east bank. Most of Ukraine’s counteroffensive was around the Zaporizhzhya region towards the town of Tokmak and around the devastated city of Bakhmut in Donetsk. The attack is expected to continue through the winter, although likely in a limited manner.
Russian forces are continuing their attacks against Ukraine as well, and are working to seize the rest of the city of Luhansk in the northeast and the eastern Donetsk region.
A major operation is now underway around the town of Avdiivka in Donetsk, where Russian forces launched a renewed offensive last month, but are said to have suffered heavy casualties, similar to the attack on Bakhmut in the spring.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said defending Avdiivka was critical to his army’s goals and weakened Russian power.
“Russia is already losing soldiers and equipment near Avdiivka faster and on a larger scale than it did near Bakhmut, for example,” Zelensky said. He said in the title this week. “It is very difficult to withstand this attack.”
Russian forces this week reportedly made gradual advances north of Avdiivka, advancing on a coke plant considered strategic for Ukrainian defenders. If the factory fell into Russian hands, this would strengthen Moscow’s ability to seize the city.
The British Ministry of Defense said in Intelligence update Russian forces are trying to encircle the city but have failed to seize the hinterland of Ukraine and will suffer further losses trying to seize the coke factory.
“The industrial facility provides Ukraine with a local defensive advantage and Russian forces would likely suffer significant personnel losses if they attempted to attack the facility,” the department wrote.
Ukraine’s notorious muddy season during autumn is coming to an end, opening the door to a harsh winter. While cold temperatures typically slow the pace of combat, refreezing the ground also opens up new opportunities for ground vehicles to advance.
But Ukraine’s supreme leader has publicly acknowledged that the counteroffensive will not see a breakthrough anytime soon, and that US primaries begin in January, which will further complicate Ukrainian support politics for Kiev’s most important backers.
A larger Russian military is better equipped for the long game, and Russian President Vladimir Putin appears willing to wait it out, said Michael O’Hanlon, director of foreign policy research at the Brookings Institution.
“Russia can bear more casualties with a larger population base,” he said, adding that Russia “doesn’t have any possibility of someone winning the presidential election next year, which would change the whole situation, but the United States does.” “So time is not on Ukraine’s side at the moment.”
Former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, is not expected to provide strong support for Ukraine if elected.
O’Hanlon doubted Moscow’s ability to achieve a “clear victory” but also expressed little optimism about Ukraine.
“There is certainly no tangible momentum on either side, and there is very little likelihood that I will see that changing any time soon,” he said. “There are more things that could get in Russia’s way in the next few months than there are things that could get in Ukraine’s way both politically and militarily. Ukraine is having a hard time developing momentum.
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