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Yesterday, a Russian war reporter/propagandist reported a major Ukrainian push across the Dnipro River, south of the city of Kherson.
Ukrainian sources were mum, and there was little initial video to confirm the scope of the operation. While Rybar, a Russian military analysis channel on Telegram, can be accurate at times, it is also known for fabricating major Ukrainian offensives, then proclaiming glorious Russian victories driving back those fictional Ukrainian advances.
So what was going on here?
Ever since driving Russia out of northern Kherson oblast, Russia’s presence on the left (southern) bank of the kilometer-wide Dnipro has been a threat to Ukrainian civilians on liberated territory. As elsewhere in eastern Ukraine, Russia rage-shells civilian areas.
As such, Ukraine has periodically staged raids across the river and even held ground at times. The goal has been to make it untenable for Russian invaders to operate in the area. But the open marsh terrain is difficult to hold, as it’s exposed to both Russian artillery and drone fire. And supply-by-boat is not realistic for anything beyond small-unit incursions. Russia had large pontoon bridges and still couldn’t manage to sustain its occupation on the right (north) bank. Ukraine isn’t immune to the laws of sustainment.
So Ukraine crosses, wreaks havoc, pushes Russian forces back, raises a flag or two, then crosses back to safer terrain.
This thread by open-source intelligence (OSINT) analyst @danspiun examines much of the available intelligence, including Russian Telegram tracking a Ukrainian troop buildup in the area, and an interesting picture of two Ukrainian pontoon bridge layers destroyed by Russia. Ukraine has been busy on its side of the river.
As with elsewhere along the front, Ukraine has been busy eliminating Russian artillery, as prominent Russian war blogger Romanov reported on Oct. 10, sharing two reports from the front:
This is Kherson oblast. The situation is dire. [Ukrainians] are shelling with artillery, striking with FPV drones, right now shelling is 4x of what it was before. We're holding but we need to think well and strengthen the defence near the bridge.
For this we need proper [electronic warfare], fire support of artillery for quick destruction of enemy targets. There's none of that here.
[Ukrainians] figured this out and now they're launching FPV drones at us without punishment, killing our best soldiers, for nothing.
Commanders know everything, but inaction of these jackals is killing us! We're ready to defend the Motherland, help us! Fate of Russia is being decided now.
The second report was equally bleak for the invaders:
Good morning if it can be said so, I'm a contractor from the 28th motorised rifle regiment. I'm writing so attention would be paid to what is happening in Nova Kakhovka. I used to be a volunteer in Donbas and seen a lot, but I still can't understand why on the 2nd year of the war we are unable to set up counter-battery fire while hohols are ironing us from artillery. I think many will know what it feels being under shelling when nothing depends on you and you can't even see the enemy, and then you give first aid to your comrade from shrapnel. This is seriously affecting the guys. Something needs to be done urgently about counter-battery fire. I'm asking for help.
Ukraine’s primary motivation in taking out Russian artillery and infantry with shorter-range mortars is protecting its own civilians. But if Ukraine can open up some space for a push toward Crimea? That’s a bonus.
Russian Telegram really thinks something is up.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces have concentrated several brigades of marines to cross the Dnieper, the pontoon fleet (German made) is estimated to be several hundred units, and there are countless boats on the other side.
The very fact of the presence of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on our shore is not news: the Armed Forces of Ukraine have been sitting and getting hit for months at the Antonovsky and Zheleznodorozhny bridges. However, the movement of reconnaissance, electronic warfare and communications systems to the front line of defense is a clear sign. Also, recently there have been attacks on our rear areas in order to disrupt logistics, communications and command and control of troops.
Hundreds of German pontoon bridges? Ukraine wishes. Germany has sent 45 of them. Ukraine’s allies sent at least another seven, and they are still waiting on systems from France and the United States. Denmark sent an unspecified number, but it’s unlikely to be more than a handful of units, at best. And many of these are already deployed in other fronts, like Kharkiv, where Ukraine blew bridges during the Russian occupation.
And brigades? We’re seeing just a handful, like these guys in the outskirts of the settlement of Pishchanivka:
There is also video of a handful of Ukrainian soldiers leisurely walking back toward the river, either pulling back or rotating.
There will likely be a time when it makes sense for Ukraine to push hard across the Dnipro, but today is likely not it. Ukraine should be happy to keep degrading Russian artillery and units in the area indefinitely.
Over the course of the week in which Russia attempted to capture the eastern city of Avdiivka (we covered it here, here, and here), Ukraine claimed it had destroyed over 300 pieces of Russian armor (on all fronts, to be clear). The OSINT guys have visually confirmed 63 of them around Avdiivka.
This is a sage thread from John Burn-Murdoch, a columnist at the Financial Times:
Some quick thoughts on why large parts of the mainstream media keep slipping up on Gaza/Israel (and why it was the same at times with Covid):
The main reason is a failure to keep pace with modern news gathering techniques, but there’s more.
With the proliferation of photos/footage, satellite imagery and map data, forensic video/image analysis and geolocation (~OSINT) has clearly been a key news gathering technique for several years now. A key news gathering technique *completely absent from most newsrooms*.
Obviously, not every journalist should be an OSINT specialist, just as not every journalist is a specialist in combing through financial accounts, or scraping websites, or doing undercover investigations. But any large news org should have *some* OSINT specialists.
The OSINT community has proved invaluable for wartime reportage. For instance, it is clear now, thanks much to the OSINT community, that the disaster at Gaza’s Al Ahli Arab Hospital on Tuesday came from a downed or malfunctioning missile fired by Hamas-aligned fighters.
This thread, in particular, by fierce Israel critic Nathan Ruser, shreds Hamas’ claims. “None of this absolves the IDF from the countless civilians it has killed in this aerial campaign. There is no excuse for the degree of civilian casualties that the IDF considers acceptable, nor of the siege tactics. And no one can deny the extent of devastation brought to Gaza,” Ruser writes after laying out his evidence. “But it seems extremely clear to me, that much (most (all)) of the initial reporting and discussion surrounding this explosion was inaccurate. The discourse and the reaction has quickly overtaken the facts and now it seems that the facts don't really matter.”
Reality and the truth matter, even if people would rather believe the (mis)information that validates their preexisting biases and beliefs. And that will only become more of a problem as artificial-intelligence-generated videos and images further muddy the information space.