For the last 72 hours, it’s been difficult to write anything about Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, which wasn’t dominated by how that invasion has snapped back to attack its creator in the best possible Frankenstein’s monster sort of way. But while Russian generals, oligarchs, and media figures have been burning brain fuel trying to decide which brutal, murderous lout had their allegiance, and Russian media was reversing itself three times in a day, Ukraine has had more important things to do.
That has included closing the gap that existed between Ukrainian troops in one area of the southern front, bringing the effort there into something closer to a single broad thrust. It also included more progress in the area north and south of Bakhmut to the point that Russian observers are starting to talk about what happens after the Russians are driven from the area.
But the biggest news has to be that over the weekend Ukraine shuttled armored vehicles across the Dnipro River on barges, established a (literal) bridgehead near the Antonivka Bridge, and are now pushing Russian forces away from the area east of Kherson after opening up a whole new front.
Ukraine crosses the Dnipro to establish bridgehead on east bank
While Russian forces were otherwise occupied with whether or not they should just pack up and run, Ukraine reportedly used barges to relocate a significant force to the eastern (left) bank of the Dnipro River. The area around the damaged Antonivka Road Bridge was recently scoured by floods resulting from Russia’s destruction of the Kakhovka Dam and some locations near the rover are still mired in mud and stagnant water. Some Russian forces on the low-lying eastern side were washed away in the flood, with bodies showing up on the beaches near Odesa, and positions near the river were moved back during the flood.
Ukraine appears to have taken advantage of all this, plus the weekend chaos, to bring over a force that reportedly includes a number of tanks (type unspecified). Ukrainian forces have advanced on the large town of Oleshki. There are reports that Russia has already been knocked out of defensive positions on the edge of the town and active battles are continuing as Ukrainian forces press south.
The area near the bridge is reportedly very swampy and difficult, so unloading vehicles there is a challenge. However, one side of the bridge is known as Oleshki Sands and it seems there is good enough terrain there to get vehicles off the barges as they cross.
As of nightfall, Ukraine had liberated the area north of the city and held an area of large homes on the periphery of Oleshki. It’s not known at the moment if Ukraine is continuing to press the attack overnight, as it has in several areas.
Right now, the fighting all seems to be going Ukraine’s way. However, this is all happening within 5 km of the bridgehead. Ukraine needs to break out of this area, or even establish a second crossing point, to be sure it can sustain forces on the left side of the river.
It’s unclear how many Russian troops remain in this area. Shelling across the river has continued following the flooding, but with Ukraines counter attacks along the southern front, and Russia’s blowing of the dam, there may not be much of a Russian presence remaining to contest the crossing near Kherson.
For weeks now, Rivnopil has been stuck between two areas of Ukrainian control but stubbornly remained at the tip of a small red salient. That’s no longer true.
There’s a lot of room in the middle there that just doesn’t touch a settlement, and reports that Russia has withdrawn forces toward Staromlynivka, so Ukraine have advanced more than this map indicates.
Details are scarce today, but there are reports Ukraine has made substantial advances near Bakmut. So much so that Russian media is openly discussing what they should do when forced from the area.
The U.K. Ministry of Defence notes the progress Ukraine is making at Bakhmut, and in the south, and near Kherson and concludes that Russia is putting everything it has on the lines right now. There wasn’t a reserve that could be peeled away to deal with events in Russia. Because there is no reserve.