Ukraine Updates: Kyiv Launches Counteroffensive in South; Drone Strike Hits Russian Black Sea Fleet HQ
Germany’s DW News: “After weeks preparing, Zelenskyy has stepped up the counteroffensive in southern Ukraine to retake the area around the city of Kherson.”
Amid Russian efforts to consolidate military advances in eastern and southern Ukraine, Kyiv is gearing up for a counteroffensive to retake the southern province of Kherson and push the invading forces across the Dnieper River, Ukrainian sources say.
“After weeks preparing, Zelenskyy has stepped up the counteroffensive in southern Ukraine to retake the area around the city of Kherson from the Russian occupiers,” German broadcaster DW News reported Saturday.
“He says a million troops have massed, though this cannot be independently verified. The Russian army had up to 150,000 soldiers stationed in the region when it invaded Ukraine on February 24,” the Germen state broadcaster noted.
Ahead of the push to retake Kherson, the Ukrainian military is aiming to cut Russian supply lines stretched across the occupied zone. Russia currently occupies around 20 percent of Ukraine’s territory, stretched from the Donbas region in the east to Kherson in the south.
U.S.-Made HIMARS Pound Russian Supply Lines
The Ukrainian military is deploying U.S.-supplied HIMARS long-range rocket launchers to disrupt Russian supply routes.
Moscow begrudgingly acknowledged the effectiveness of the newly delivered U.S.-made weapons system. Russia Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu “ordered generals to prioritize destroying Ukraine’s long-range missiles and artillery after Western-supplied weapons were used to strike Russian supply lines,” the Reuters reported last week.
The TV channel broadcaster France24 reported the role of U.S.-supplied system in the Ukrainian counteroffensive:
Ukrainian forces shelled the Antonovsky bridge overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday with US-supplied rockets, targeting a main crossing linking Kherson to the Dnipro River’s southern bank and the rest of the region, which is now almost entirely controlled by Russia. (…)
Ukrainian forces used the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), supplied by the United States and remarkable for their precision strikes, to target the bridge.
To counter the effects of the Ukrainian strikes on supply chain problems, Russia has been using and floating bridges, said Huseyn Aliyev, a specialist in Ukraine-Russia conflict at Glasgow University. However, these structures are much more fragile and narrower than traditional bridges, which slows down the arrival of supplies, he said.
Strategically located between the Dnipro River and the Black Sea to the west, Kherson became the first Ukrainian city to fall under Russian control back in March.
While the Antonovsky bridge is the main gateway to Kherson from the south, Ukrainian forces also shelled a smaller bridge 70km to the northeast of the city. According to Sim Tack, an analyst at conflict-monitoring firm Force Analysis, this second bridge is an important access route that allows the transit of Russian troops and supplies from Nova Kakhovka, another city in Kherson Oblast in southern Ukraine.
Kyiv is also ramping up its offensive in the east, evacuating civilians in parts of the eastern Donetsk region still under its control. Since war started in late February, Russia has taken most of Donetsk and Luhansk, two provinces that together constitute Ukraine’s Donbas region.
UK TV channel Sky News, on Sunday, reported the Ukrainian war effort around Donetsk:
Ukraine’s president has announced a mandatory evacuation of people in the Donetsk region, amid fierce fighting with Russia.
In his nightly address, Volodymyr Zelenskyy said hundreds of thousands of people still in combat zones in the larger Donbas region also needed to leave.
Mr Zelenskyy said the sooner people leave “the fewer people the Russian army will have time to kill”.
He said: “Full support, full assistance – both logistical and payments. We only need a decision from the people themselves, who have not yet made it for themselves. Go, we will help”. (…)
Donetsk has seen fierce fighting in recent days, particularly in the eastern town of Bakhmut, which is the focus of the Russian offensive in the Donbas.
The announcement comes amid continued attacks within the region, including one on a prison in Olenivka, in the Russian-controlled Donetsk region.
Drone Strike Hits Russia’s Black Sea Fleet HQ
The Russian military on Sunday confirmed a Ukrainian drone strike on its naval command center in the Black Sea. “A drone-borne explosive device detonated Sunday at the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, injuring six people,” the AP News reported quoting official Russian sources.
The strike took place as President Vladimir Putin marked Russia’s Navy Day by issuing a new naval doctrine, and promising to deliver more hypersonic missiles to the naval forces.
On Sunday, “Vladimir Putin signed a new naval doctrine which cast the United States as Russia’s main rival and set out Russia’s global maritime ambitions for crucial areas such as the Arctic and in the Black Sea,” Sky News reported.
Reuters reported the alleged Ukrainian drone strike:
A senior official in Russian-annexed Crimea accused Ukraine on Sunday of carrying out a drone attack ahead of planned celebrations to mark Navy Day, injuring five and forcing the cancellation of festivities. (…)
“An unidentified object flew into the courtyard of the fleet’s headquarters,” Mikhail Razvozhayev, governor of Sevastopol, home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet, wrote on the Telegram messaging app. “According to preliminary information, it is a drone.”
Russia-Europe Energy War: Moscow Cuts Off Gas Supply to Neighboring Latvia
As war in Ukraine strains relations between Russia and the European Union, Moscow on Saturday stopped gas supply to Latvia, a former Soviet Baltic state which holds the EU and NATO membership.
The rest of Europe, particularly Germany, is struggling to cope with dwindling Russian energy supply ahead of winter. Last week, Russia drastically slashed gas exports to Europe, reducing the Nord Stream pipeline to merely 20 percent of its capacity.
The Associated Press reported the latest Russian move:
Russia’s state-owned natural gas corporation said Saturday it has halted shipments to Latvia because of contract violations.
In a brief statement, gas giant Gazprom said the shipments were stopped because Latvia broke “terms for extraction of gas.” It did not elaborate.
The statement likely referred to a refusal to meet Russia’s demand for gas payments in rubles rather than other currencies. Gazprom previously suspended shipments to other European Union countries, including the Netherlands, Poland and Bulgaria, because they would not pay in rubles.
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