Recently Ukraine hit several bridges near Kherson with HIMARS temporarily making them unusable. But they did not bring them down. This diary will discuss what might be going on here. This diary is all speculation, and most of the ideas have been suggested by many others in comments sections. Kos covered sections of this as well. I’m just compiling my personal favorite bits into a more cohesive narrative and adding some maps for those who haven’t yet memorized every last square foot of Ukraine.
When Ukraine hit those bridges without bringing them down, they were sending a message to Russia “We can take these down any time we want to.” But why not just take them down? Why send a message first? Because Ukraine is giving Russia a choice. Option A for Russia is to voluntarily withdraw across the river.
This is not to save the bridges. The bridges are coming down under most circumstances, either by Ukraine or by Russia. It’s to possibly save Kherson. Ukraine would rather not lay siege to the city or to fight it out inside. By damaging the bridges they are giving notice to Russia that Ukraine has the accuracy to take down the bridges, the pontoon bridges, and probably even the ferries (while docked). It’s an ultimatum of leave or we cut off your supplies.
Ukraine can do this because at this point those bridges are far more valuable to Russia than to Ukraine. Ukraine has control of multiple bridges at Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro. While it would be nice for Ukraine to have a bridge near Kherson after crossing, it is not essential for them. Russia has only those bridges, pontoon bridges, and ferries which will be constantly under the threat of being destroyed pretty much whenever Ukraine wants to (it may take a few tries, but not many).
Russia’s other option was Plan B. This is the “fine, have it your way but you’re not going like this.”
In option B Ukraine blows the bridges and moves their reserves to take Kherson. Russia will be in low supply and unable to reinforce. Ukraine can then pretty much be assured of 3:1 troop advantage (or whatever levels they wish) without fear of large troop movements messing with the ratio once started. This battle will be fairly isolated from the rest of the conflict.
Plus, Russia has no easy escape here. No heavy equipment will be able to leave. Soldiers can swim or possibly take a boat. It’s unclear how many boats of different sizes are still in Kherson. In peacetime it would have plenty of commercial and pleasure boats. I’ve no clue how many are still present and operational. The exit to the sea gets close to Mykolayiv meaning Ukraine can intercept many with drones or patrol boats if they go that way. The anti-ship missiles will keep the Russian Black Sea fleet away.
Option B becomes a contest of how quickly and effectively can Ukraine destroy Russia’s supply lines as Russia attempts to get supplies to troops in Kherson by any means possible. While Russia is defending an urban area, it’s full of partisans. I give a big advantage to Ukraine in this scenario.
So what did Russia chose? Option C!? In the ever brilliant mind of the authoritarian, Russia has apparently decided to double down and send troops INTO Kherson.
In this option Russia sends more troops into Kherson to defend it. It’s not certain they have done this. We’ve previously heard reports of troops going west over the river but it’s unclear in what amounts or if they are just moving to guard the East bank of the Dnipro (or do something else on the East side). But assuming they have in fact done the unthinkable, let’s see what the Russians have chosen for themselves.
Ukraine still blows the bridges and ferries. But now Russia needs even more supplies to be brought in to keep those troops effective. If they were only going to send the same amount of supplies no matter what, why send troops that would be guaranteed to be out of supply? So Russia thinks they can get the supplies across. But they won’t be by freighter or railroad meaning Russia’s artillery tactic of leveling everything can only be accomplished from the East bank of the river. Any artillery on the West Bank will have limited supplies. Even East bank artillery is in range of HIMARS and may face significant shortages.
In this scenario, the best thing for Ukraine to do after blowing the bridges to Kherson is to set up on the defensive there and go attack on the East bank of the Dnipro. Any heavy equipment Russia brought to Kherson is now trapped there. And troops brought back would have light equipment at best. Ukraine would be wise to not attack into a large concentration but to just let the Russians run out of supplies. Instead the theoretical troops in Dnipro could attack due south to Melitopol severing the land bridge. If Russia covers that approach then Ukraine could attack in the north to take the critical rail hub of Kupiansk or something else entirely.
This is the power of both Ukraine’s inner lines of communication plus holding territory on both sides of the Dnipro. They have forced Russia to make a decision and whatever Russia choses to do, Ukraine can simply choose to attack the weakest point while isolating Russian movements.
This is all possible thanks to the accuracy and range of the HIMARS missile system.