HIMARS missiles pave Ukraine’s counteroffensive on Kherson
Ukraine continues to weaken Russia’s defenses in the south in apparent preparation for an intensified counteroffensive in Kherson.
One of the few bridges in Kherson, the Antonov Bridge, was damaged in shelling on Tuesday. The bridge is one of the key logistical routes for Russian troops operating in the area across the Dnipro River. Local officials under Russian orders claim that Ukraine attacked it using U.S.-supplied Himars multiple rocket launchers. A Ukrainian official, deputy head of the elected regional council, Yuriy Sobolevskyi, said the bridge was still operational “for now.” A video shot by a witness shows several large holes in the car road that passes over the bridge, but the bridge still appears to be largely intact. The Ukrainian military has not provided any specific comment other than to assure that the counteroffensive in Kherson is continuing successfully.
Ukraine earlier indicated that it was building up a million-strong army to recapture Kherson and other lost territories. It has been striking military targets in the area in recent weeks using Himars, which are longer-range and more accurate than the mostly Soviet-era weapons Ukraine previously used. While Ukrainian officials previously insisted that dozens of such systems are needed to turn the tide of the war, Ukraine’s top military officer, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, claimed in his conversation with U.S. counterpart Mark Milley that the HIMARS have helped stabilize the front line. Zaluzhnyi, as well as Defense Minister Olexiy Reznikov, have spoken with their key partners ahead of the upcoming meeting of the defense ministers of the countries that provided their weapons to Ukraine.
Ukrainian forces have been advancing on Kherson already for weeks. It has liberated some 44 villages, which, however, continue to be shelled by Russian artillery. The mostly agricultural coastal region was home to more than a million people. It used to host several hundred thousand tourists each year. Now its beaches are empty. Several hundred thousand inhabitants have fled the occupied territories after witnessing a brutal crackdown on the opposition, attempts to introduce Russian currency and the Russian school curriculum, as well as a lack of vital medicines and food. Russian-installed officials have repeatedly warned that the region will become part of Russia. Moscow has also tried to isolate the region from Ukrainian mobile operators.
People continue to leave on foot for the Ukrainian-controlled Dnipro region. Ukraine has urged people to leave the area to reduce the risks of civilian casualties, as fighting is expected to become even more intense.
Separately, yesterday the Ukrainian parliament on Tuesday approved Volodimir Zelensky’s decision to dismiss spy chief Ivan Bakanov and Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova.
The Ukrainian president dismissed them due to multiple cases of obvious or possible treason committed by their employees, especially in these occupied areas in the south and east of the country. Some bridges and other infrastructure that should have been destroyed to prevent the Russian invasion were left intact, allowing the occupation of Kherson.
Meanwhile, Russia has carried out missile and artillery attacks on the cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk which have become its main targets in the Donetsk region. The mostly Russian-speaking population used to view Putin favorably, but has suffered more from the promise to “liberate” them. Relying on artillery superiority, Russia’s modus operandi in this war is to raze entire towns, both to leave Ukrainian troops no base from which to operate and to terrorize the local population. Once known as Ukraine’s key industrial region, with many towns formed around large mining, chemical and metallurgical plants, Donbas faces an uncertain future as its main sources of jobs and income are being destroyed by the Russians.