After almost four months in Russian control, Ukrainian forces have launched their counteroffensive in the Southern regions of their country with the goal of reclaiming the port city of Kherson. Kherson was the first city to fall under Russian control during the invasion.
The Ukrainian military announced the counteroffensive with a simple tweet: “Hold on, Kherson, we’re coming!” they said.
This Ukrainian push into Kherson may possibly be a tactic to spread the Russian military thin further as they battle problems of their own such as limited manpower due to the large number of casualties the Russians have been incurring over the past few months. Couple this with various logistics problems as well as a shorthanded supply of weapons, and they would be forced to reinforce troops in the south while trying to gain complete control of Donbas. This will force the Russians to divide reinforcements into two fronts, making the battle more difficult for them.
Counteroffensive in Kherson Oblast: Ukrainian troops broke 9km into Russian defense lines. But too early to talk about the collapse of 🇷🇺 here – Russian generals are now actively maneuvering troops and equipment in the Kherson Obl and their counterattacks may begin soon pic.twitter.com/iLKel1wcFa
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) May 30, 2022
Ukraine has repeatedly claimed that it would need Western artillery systems to pull off a successful counteroffensive against the Russians as they’ve been shelled by the Kremlin forces throughout the duration of the war. Ukraine should not be in a vulnerable position, however. With US-made howitzers now in Ukrainian hands with photos showing that they have been placed in Donbas, these can easily be transferred to provide some support to Ukrainian forces taking part in the counteroffensive in the south.
In fact, evidence suggests that Ukrainian forces have already positioned an undisclosed number of American M-777 howitzers 50 miles northeast of Kherson, located near the Inhulets River in the area of Davydiv Brid. This forced the Russian forces to fall back to “unfavorable” territories. It had also been reported that the Ukrainian 5th Tank Brigade first led the counteroffensive armed with some 100 T-72 tanks that previously guarded Odesa.
This was after Kherson Region Council member Serhii Hlan reported that the Ukrainian forces had gained some ground, pushing the Russians some 5 miles into the Beryslav district, and broke the Russian troops into two parts encircling Russians in Davidiv Brid.
Kherson direction, soldiers pass greetings to orcs with the help of M777 cannon. pic.twitter.com/HVVhFshpar
— ТРУХА⚡️English (@TpyxaNews) May 28, 2022
The Institute for the Study of War found that the Ukrainian counteroffensive was conducted to disrupt the establishment of defensive positions along the southern axis but has not taken back any substantial territory so far. That being said, it has disrupted Russian operations in the area and will force Russia to provide reinforcements to Kherson, disrupting operations in Donbas. This is because Russian units holding Kherson are described to be “sub-standard,” possibly due to the fact that it had been held in the earlier portions of the war where conscripts had been utilized.
The Russians, to their credit, have begun digging trenches in anticipation of a prolonged Ukrainian counteroffensive. This is why artillery and air support from the Ukrainian side are paramount to a successful counteroffensive, as they may be up against highly-fortified positions. This is a problem for the Ukrainians as the Russian forces still have S-300s to take down any near MiG-29s flying around to provide air support.
The Ukrainians appear to be taking advantage of the recent progress made near Kherson, with a large number of troops filmed in the area. pic.twitter.com/NkvYp4Yjen
— OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) May 30, 2022
As this was happening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the frontlines in Kharkiv in a rare move from the Ukrainian President outside of Kyiv. It would be dangerous for him to move around active war zones. According to him, he wanted to thank the soldiers personally for successfully repelling advances in the region.
“I want to thank each of you for your service. You risk your life for all of us and our state. Thank you for defending Ukraine’s independence. Take care of yourself,” he said.
According to the head of Kharkiv’s regional military administration Oleg Synegubov, 31% of Kharkiv is still currently occupied by Russians, and only 5% has been taken back by Ukrainian forces. Furthermore, 30.2% of the total housing in the city has been damaged or destroyed.
“Russia has already lost not only the battle for Kharkiv, not only the battle for Kyiv and the north of our country,” Zelensky said. “It lost its own future and any cultural ties to the free world. They all burned down.”
SOFREP previously reported that Ukrainian 127th Territorial Defense Brigade had reached the Russian border after fighting in Kharkiv. Russians were previously seen to be pulling back from the frontlines in Kharkiv but still hold the majority of the areas in the city, which lies just 50 miles from Belgorod, Russia.
The Ukrainian Government may have launched this counteroffensive not just as a way to divide Russian forces but also because the city was reported to be slowly integrating into Russia, with citizens being forced to use the Russian ruble and the Russian internet. More so, the so-called pro-Russian Deputy Head of the Regional Military and Civilian Administration in Kherson Kirill Stremousov had asked the Russian Government to directly annex it without a referendum, increasing the urgency of the Ukrainians to take back their territory.