It’s been less than a year since Ukraine liberated Kherson. Kherson was the largest city and the only regional capital occupied by Russia following the 2022 invasion, and months of hard fighting made it difficult to imagine how Ukraine might liberate the city without resorting to the kind of hugely destructive tactics Russia had used to capture Severodonetsk or Bakhmut.
With nearly 300,000 civilians in Kherson captured through treachery in the first week of the invasion, it seemed impossible for Ukraine to drive Russia out without a level of destruction that would cause thousands of civilian deaths and drive hundreds of thousands from their homes. Then Ukraine did it. By carefully targeting the Antonivskyi and Nova Kakhovka Bridges in the summer of 2022, then following up with dedicated pounding of Russian efforts to create pontoon bridges or deliver supplies on barges, Ukraine starved out the Russian forces on the right (west) side of the Dnipro River, forcing their complete withdrawal.
While the kilometer-wide Dnipro might seem like an insurmountable barrier and fighting on the left (east) side of the river has mostly been limited to raids by small numbers of Ukrainian special forces, in the past few weeks Ukraine’s presence on the left bank has grown in size and importance. This is beginning to look like it might not be a skirmish, but a front.
This seems like a good spot to remember what may be the most glorious event of this whole grim story to this point. This is what we want to see in Melitopol, in Mariupol, in Crimea, and in every city, town, and village currently occupied by Russia.
Right now, we are four days away from the first anniversary of those events in Kherson. But even just watching a video, it’s hard to resist the incredible relief, deep joy, and triumph of that day. More of this. Please.
Fighting began in the islands near Kherson within days of the Russian withdrawal, and Ukraine managed to establish a bridgehead on the left bank of the river over six months ago. That bridgehead—which is literally around the end of the non-functional Antonivskyi Bridge—has managed to hang on despite having few forces, little equipment, and facing heavy bombardment from Russia. Still, with no armor and no means of bringing heavy equipment across the river, Ukraine has been unable to make a serious move on the town of Oleshky to the south.
In August, Ukraine crossed the river at a second location, about 15 kilometers to the northeast near the town of Kozachi Laheri.
That movement came as intense conflict along the southern front caused Russia to relocate units from Kherson oblast and either move them to the frontline or position them as reserve units in the south. With reports that Russia had moved large numbers of forces to the north and its recent losses in the ongoing fight at Avdiivka, it’s unclear if Russia has replaced its forces in Kherson.
The bridgehead at Kozachi Laheri appeared to be much like that near the Antonivskyi Bridge–a small number of special forces operatives unsupported by heavy equipment. Soon after, a third crossing point was reported alongside the rail bridge connecting Prydniprovske and Pishchanivka.
While this crossing also seemed small, the combination of these bridgeheads, along with the existing bridgehead at Antonivskyi Bridge above Oleshky, gave Ukraine tacit control along a stretch of riverfront running for at least 20 kilometers.
The fact that Ukraine was able to complete these crossings, and that Russia wasn’t able to immediately drive back these small forces, suggests that Russia doesn’t have significant force, or even good visibility, along the Dnipro. Instead, Russia seems to be concentrated on garrisoning towns located some distance away from the river and protecting the artillery emplacements it uses to strike Ukrainian positions on the right bank.
Then in mid-October came the first reports that Ukraine had made another crossing near the village of Krynky. And that crossing … may be different.
Krynky is one of those villages along the Dnipro that suffered heavy flooding after Russian forces destroyed the dam at Nova Kakhovka in June.
Buildings were destroyed. People were stranded on rooftops. Barns, sheds, and some homes were washed away. Before the invasion, around 1,000 people lived in Krynky. But between the war and the flooding, it seems all but deserted now.
Even in the first few days of the crossing near Krynky, Ukraine was reportedly able to infiltrate troops among the sodden, quiet streets. As a result, Russia began heavily shelling what was left of this location. Despite this, there were repeated claims that Ukraine had brought additional forces across the river in this area. Not dozens of troops this time, but hundreds.
Reports that Ukraine was using M3 Amphibious Rigs provided by Germany proliferated, along with reports that trucks, Humvees, mortars, and other heavy weapons had been ferried across. This video shows German forces training Ukrainians on the use of the M3.
The M3 was specifically designed not just to transport infantry, light vehicles, and supplies, but as a means of rapidly ferrying armored vehicles, including tanks, across rivers. In the past week, reports have come in that Ukraine has begun doing exactly this: bringing armored vehicles across the river for the first time.
That image appears to show a BTR-4E infantry fighting vehicle. How important that armor has been on the left bank so far isn’t clear, but there are multiple reports that Ukraine has liberated most of Krynky’s flood-stained streets, driven Russian forces into wooded regions to the south, moved some distance along the road toward Korsunka, and even pushed Russian forces out of some of their positions in the wooded area to move close to the T2206 highway.
Some sites, such as Deep State, don’t yet reflect any change on their map and continue to show a long strip along the river as contested, with Krynky under Russian control. Others, such as Andrew Perpetua, show Ukraine driving almost 2 kilometers into the area of Russian occupation. The most optimistic estimates have Ukraine actually moving past Krynky and driving Russian forces farther south.
This is the latest publicly available satellite imagery from Sentinel-2 with a rough idea of where Ukraine is moving and where Russian forces have deployed.
Ukrainian forces now appear to be moving around the area in large numbers without suffering obvious attacks. There have also been Telegram reports that Russia opened fire on its own retreating troops in this area. Russia has defensive positions in those woods south of the town, but these appear to be much less developed than anything along the southern front.
However, there are additional reports that air defenses on both sides are down. Ukraine reportedly took out Russian defenses located east of Krynky, but Russia also took down Ukrainian air defenses across the river. With the skies essentially wide open, Ukrainian forces are reporting that Russia is making heavy use of glide bombs. These don’t have the accuracy of high-precision weaponry, but they make up for it in part by being large. Russia has been hitting Krynky, the riverfront, and locations across the river where Ukrainian forces had mustered for crossing.
If Ukraine can reach the T2206 highway (labeled M-14 on the satellite image), or take it under fire, that would limit a major Russian supply line to the area. Forces moving toward Korsunka may also be able to cut a rail line used to move Russian supplies along the front.
At the same time this is happening, there are also reports that Ukraine has bolstered its forces near the Antonivskyi Bridge. With control over the riverbank for at least 30 kilometers and Ukraine’s apparent success at Krynky, it seems likely that Russia will need to shift more forces into the area. That could have a trickle-down effect on fights going on elsewhere.
But as cool as the M3 Amphibious Rig may be, a sustained Ukrainian presence on the left bank would seem to demand a bridge. Ukraine might be able to repair the Antonivskyi Bridge well enough to get a line of vehicles and supplies across. The rail bridge at Prydniprovske looks to be a hopeless task, with almost half its span missing. The other option might be the Kakhovka Bridge across the broken dam, but it would be difficult to work in that area unless Ukraine first liberates Nova Kakhovka.
Really, there are no easy answers. Here is satellite imagery, all within the past week, of the three options in the area.
Maybe Ukraine can keep surprising everyone by bringing in armor and supplies using ferries. It’s a long way from perfect, but so far it seems to be working.
Black Sea Fleet? What Black Sea Fleet? This is another ship that clearly won’t be returning to the fight. Ever.