Ukrainian forces are ramping up attacks to reclaim territory in the Russian-occupied south.
The Ukrainians are unleashing American-supplied rocket launchers to strike bridges and military infrastructure in the south, forcing Russia to divert its forces from the Donbas in the east to counter the new threat.
The attacks come despite Moscow’s massive war machine crawling across Ukraine’s east, trying to achieve the Kremlin’s goal of securing full control over the country’s industrial heartland,
With the war in Ukraine now in its sixth month, the coming weeks may prove decisive.
While the bulk of Russian and Ukrainian military assets are conсentrated in the Donbas, the industrial region of mines and factories, both sides hope to make gains elsewhere.
Ukraine has vowed to drive the Russians from the territory they have seized since the start of the invasion, including the southern region of Kherson and part of the Zaporizhzhia region, while Moscow has pledged to hold on to the occupied areas and take more ground around the country.
The Donbas consists of Luhansk province, now fully controlled by Russia, and Donetsk province, about half of which is in Moscow’s hands.
Moscow-backed local officials in Ukraine’s east and south have talked about holding votes on joining Russia as early as September. Those plans hinge on Russia’s ability to win full control of those areas by then.
Ukraine has received about a dozen American-built HIMARS multiple rocket launchers and has used them to strike Russian ammunition depots, which are essential for maintaining Moscow’s edge in firepower. HIMARS systems have a range of 80 kilometers (50 miles), enabling the Ukrainians to hit the Russians from beyond the reach of most of the enemy’s artillery.
The Ukrainian strikes on munitions storage sites have caught the Russian army off guard, forcing it to move materiel to scattered locations farther from combat areas, lengthening supply lines, reducing the Russian edge in firepower and helping to slow Russia’s offensive in the east.
In a series of attacks that helped boost the country’s morale, the Ukrainians repeatedly used HIMARS to strike a key bridge across the Dnieper River in the Kherson region, cutting traffic across it and raising potential supply problems for Russian forces in the area.
Russia still can use a second crossing on the Dnieper to ferry supplies and reinforcements to its troops in Kherson, which lies just north of the Crimean Peninsula, seized by Russia in 2014. But Ukraine’s strikes have shown Russia’s vulnerability and weakened its hold on the region.