On Tuesday evening, Russia was trying to establish a defensive line through its possessions in the Kherson region which stretches between the city of Bruskynske in the west and Mylove in the east. This is designed to stop the rapid Ukrainian advance into northern Kherson. It’s unclear whether that effort was successful, but it appears to have temporarily halted the “grab a village as fast as you can reach” parade that has been going on for the past three days.
Since Sunday, Ukraine has liberated more than 50 sites in northern Kherson, as well as more than 1,600 square kilometers. It crushed not only Russia’s frontline positions, but also positions that had been provisioned as fallbacks. Along the entire front, Ukraine is now 30 km south of the positions it held a few days ago, and less than 30 km from reaching Russia’s ultimate fallback positions at Beryslav, just other side of the damaged Nova Kakhovka bridge.
This location in Beryslav is not only the point where Russian forces are expected to assemble in a last ditch attempt to hold something from northern Kherson, it is also the site of an exfiltration camp, where abducted Ukrainian citizens from their homes across the region were taken for sorting, processing and shipment to unknown sites in Russia. Beryslav’s release would give the world the first opportunity to see what one of these camps looks like. There are already reports suggesting that an army that fought with WWII-style tactics is fully capable of WWII-level horrors.
On Tuesday, the northern advance moved so far that it actually overran the long-disputed town of Davydiv Brid, linking the acquired area to the north with the bridgehead over the Inhulets River that had been one of the Ukraine’s biggest counter-offensives in the region so far this week.
Most of the locations along Russia’s new defensive line aren’t great. Like most of this area, the terrain is flat and Russia has done little to prepare the area for the fighting as it did not expect to be there. The exceptions are at the ends of the line.
To the east, Mylove has both limited high ground and ditches which guard the approaches on both sides. The northern approach to the town also passes over a bridge 2 km to the north, which was probably destroyed. Ukraine’s advance to this location in force may also have been slowed because Russia destroyed the bridge by Dudchany when retreating from this location.
To the west, Bruskynske and neighboring Ishchenka (that first red dot above Bruskynske) have a number of trenches and other fortifications, expressly because they were the subject of long-term fighting related to this Inhulets bridgehead. Essentially, it was the second line positions to the west all the way, and now they’re anchoring the defensive line on that side.
According to reports on Tuesday evening, Ukraine was on the verge of ousting Russia from Bruskynske. However, the position there would have been reinforced by the Russian forces which withdrew from the north. As of Wednesday morning, there is no indication that Russia has been moved from this position. Of all these places, Bruskynske is perhaps the best prepared for this moment.
However, while Bruskynske may be the end of Russia’s defensive line, it is not the end of Ukraine’s positioning. Ukraine is said to have moved a large number of forces to Sukhyi Stavok and is deploying from there. Rather than take Bruskynske directly, it seems likely that Ukraine will repeat the tactics it used against places such as Balakliya and Lyman: it will bypass Bruskynske, secure the only supply route along the T2207 highway, then will recover this Russian hard point after expanding its position at the back.
There is also the center of this new line in Borozenske. Reports suggest that Russia hasn’t done much to prepare this location, and there doesn’t appear to be any topographical feature that would make it a great place. Perhaps the only thing that makes it tenable is that there is little road access from the north, which means Ukraine either has to cross the country or try to find another way in. Or Ukraine could take advantage of the 20km of next to nothing between Borozenske and Mylove and just drive south.
Given the pace of things in the area, chances are we’ll find out soon.
Further south, across from where the endlessly meandering Inhulets River bends north-south to divide the Kherson region in two, reports emerged on Tuesday evening that Snihurivka had been released. This would be a huge deal as it is one of the most heavily fortified, reinforced and disputed sites in Russia, similar to Vysokopillya in the north, except that Snihurivka keeps a direct approach to the city of Kherson.
The best information from Wednesday morning is that Snihurivka is most released. The majority of Russian forces have been driven out, Ukrainian troops have arrived, but there still seem to be pockets of Russian resistance in the city. With a population of over 12,000 before the invasion, Snihurivka is an important site with an industrial sector in the southwest and a large number of housing blocks to be surveyed and cleared. Even though the vast majority of Russians have fled the area, it may take some time before Snihurivka is officially liberated.
The official position outside Russia this morning: “The Russian army has completed a regrouping action in Kherson to gather forces for a strike.” All pro-Russian Telegram and Twitter are applauding how Russia has maneuvered Ukraine into a trap and “the jaws are about to close”. Actual Russian sources are too busy finding ways to escape across the river. There have also been reports of Russian surrenders in Kherson, although it is unclear whether this happened in large numbers.
Meanwhile, up north…
Just because things are moving so fast in Kherson doesn’t mean they’ve stalled in the north. Ukraine has now moved within 20 km of the Russian hub of Svatove from several directions. Along the road coming north from Lyman, Ukraine pushed north from Makiivka and there was reported fighting at Novovodyane on Wednesday. The start from Makiivka is also a further push east, this time along the road through Ploshchanka to Krasnorichenske. Securing these two locations would cut off the strategic P66 highway. Ploshchanka is likely released, but there have been no announcements or pictures to confirm this. Holding these two locations would not only position Ukraine to continue north towards Svatove, but would threaten Russia’s already beleaguered position in the Kreminna.
To the west, Ukraine liberated the town of Horlivka. However, it is unclear which direction they will go from there. They could continue to move northeast from this position along a series of unpaved roads despite the muddy conditions, or they could move forces east to Makiivka or west to join in the fighting that was already underway in a series of Russian-occupied villages.
Northwest of this location, Ukraine pushed east from Borova. Fighting is reported in the Pershotravneve area, with some sources claiming that Russian troops had withdrawn from this location. If Ukraine can continue on this road, there isn’t much else on the way to the junction just west of Svatove.
Currently, the area around Kupyansk appears to be the least active. Official Russian sources claim that there are big battles – and big Ukrainian losses – in this area. Real-world chatter from Russian and Ukrainian sources doesn’t seem to suggest much more than skirmishes in the region. So far, Ukraine does not seem to have made serious attempts to move forward on the P07 highway.
The topography in Svatove sucks… for Russia. If Ukraine can reach the area of this road junction just west of the city, it will be on high ground with a view of the entire city. If Russia chooses to take a position there, it will not go well.
Again there are claims of significant numbers of Russian soldiers being killed in the south as well as captures of equipment, but I have no locations to back up these claims. I will try to produce an updated map for Zaporizhzhia in the next few days.
I find it hard to resist a good release group photo.
This week on Downvoting we check out Pennsylvania, where Republican Doug Mastriano has called for “40 days of fasting and prayer” to save his struggling gubernatorial campaign; dig into ad spend numbers that show Democrats are airing a lot more spots because they don’t rely on super PACs; and recap the disheartening results of the Italian general election, which saw the far right win for the first time since Mussolini.