Russian forces are pummeling Ukrainian units that have crossed over the Dnieper River to the Russian-occupied left (eastern) bank of the river in Kherson, an official said Wednesday.
The Kherson area, in southern Ukraine, is partially occupied by Russian forces after an offensive to take the city of Kherson last year prompted Russian forces to withdraw to the eastern bank of the river.
Ukraine reported Tuesday that its forces had established a foothold on the eastern bank of the river. The announcement could herald the start of an advance toward Russian-occupied Crimea, with Ukraine saying on Wednesday that it was starting to push back against Russian forces on the eastern bank.
A Russian-installed official, Vladimir Saldo, said in comments on Telegram that Ukrainian units had been able to cross the river — confirming for the first time that this had taken place — and said that initially Ukraine had sent “more manpower than our means of destruction were able to destroy.”
“Additional forces have now been brought in,” he said, claiming that Ukrainian forces were blocked in the village of Krynki, where “a fiery hell” awaited them. “Bombs, missiles, ammunition from heavy flamethrower systems, artillery shells, and drones are flying at them [Ukrainian forces] … Over the last two or three days alone, the enemy’s total losses amounted to about a hundred militants.”
Ukraine requested an “informational silence,” amid the fierce fighting.
“The Russians understand that the advance of the defense forces is inevitable, but they cannot calculate from which direction they can expect such a danger,” Natalia Humeniuk, press officer for Operational Command South, said Wednesday in televised comments.
Russian forces were, she said, “trying to actively defend themselves, using heavy artillery, rocket launchers, and aviation as much as possible.”
“The pushback from our side is taking place on a line from 3 to 8km [up to 5 miles] along the entire coast from the water’s edge [of the Dnieper River]. The front line is quite fluid today,” she said.
“I cannot reveal all the measures we are currently taking, but it is obvious that the enemy is being pressed [by our measures]. For now, we are asking for informational silence so that our plans can be put into motion: it will allow us to report on great successes later.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak confirmed Monday that Ukraine’s forces had gained a foothold on the left side of the river and were looking to advance.
“Against all odds, Ukraine’s defense forces have gained a foothold on the left bank of the Dnieper. Step-by-step, we are demilitarizing Crimea. We have covered 70% of the distance,” he told the Hudson Institute.
Recapturing the whole of the Kherson region is one of the main goals of the Ukrainian counteroffensive that was launched in June. The region has been partially occupied by Russian forces after they withdrew from Kherson city on the west bank last year following an earlier counteroffensive. Since then, the river had effectively separated Russian and Ukrainian forces, until now.
The US-based Institute for the Study of War said Tuesday that it “continues to assess that Ukrainian forces have been conducting larger-than-usual ground operations on the east bank of Kherson Oblast [region] since mid-October 2023 and that Ukrainian forces appear to be able to maintain and supply their current positions on the Russian-controlled side of Kherson Oblast.”
Rescuers search for survivors after lethal Russian missile strike in east Ukraine
A Russian missile smashed into an apartment block in the sleepy eastern Ukrainian town of Selydove on Wednesday, killing one person and wounding at least three others, the national police said.
Rescuers at the site raced to clear rubble to find anyone buried beneath after the attack, which police said saw four S-300 missiles strike the town shortly after midnight, damaging six apartment buildings and 20 homes.
Local officials in one channel on Telegram messenger said that four people were believed to be trapped under the rubble.
About half of the apartment block was destroyed by the missile, which tore out a gaping triangular hole that spanned at least ten meters at its top.
Russia has carried out regular missile and drone strikes on population centers behind the front line of its 21-month-old invasion of Ukraine. Moscow denies targeting civilians. Ukraine regularly reports that Russian missile and drone strikes have killed and hurt civilians and damaged civilian infrastructure during the full-scale war launched by Russia in February 2022.
Russia taking bigger losses in Avdiivka than in Bakhmut, Ukraine says
Fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces remains intense around the town of Avdiivka in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk, with Ukraine’s president saying Russia was experiencing more losses there than it did in Bakhmut, another war hotspot.
Like Bakhmut, the town is seen as a strategic target for Russian forces looking to encircle the town, which has been heavily fortified by Ukrainian troops, and to strengthen their foothold in Donetsk. Fighting has been intense in the area for months and little remains of the town that was once home to around 32,000 inhabitants.
President Zelensky said Tuesday evening that he had spoken to defense and security officials on the situation around Avdiivka and the surrounding area and that “Russian assaults are very intense, especially in the Donetsk region.”
“Russia is already losing soldiers and equipment near Avdiivka faster and on a larger scale than, for example, near Bakhmut. It is extremely difficult to withstand this onslaught. And each of our warriors holding the positions, each of our warriors performing combat missions there deserves our utmost gratitude,” Zelensky said.
“The more Russian forces are destroyed near Avdiivka now, the worse the overall situation and the overall course of this war will be for the enemy,” Zelensky said.