Ukraine’s troops have managed to cross the Dnipro River in the south of the country for the first time since the Russian invasion began, according to conflict analysts. Speculation continues to mount over Ukraine’s long-awaited spring offensive aimed at pushing 100 miles south of the river at least as far as annexed Crimea.
This breakthrough comes on the heels of rumours of a partial Russian retreat in the Kherson region.
Since Russian troops retreated from Kherson in November, the Dnipro River has been the front line.
Analysts speculate that Ukraine’s spring attack may attempt to push 100 kilometres south of the river, possibly as far as annexed Crimea.
According to experts at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in the United States, footage from Russian military bloggers provided the first “reliable geolocated imagery of Ukrainian positions” south of the river.
The ISW update stated: “The extent and intent of these Ukrainian positions remain unclear, as does Ukraine’s ability and willingness to maintain sustained positions in this area.”
The struggle for Kherson is critical to retaining control of Crimea, which Moscow occupied nine years ago.
The Russian-appointed governor of Ukraine’s southern Kherson area has refuted reports of Ukrainian forces taking up positions on the Dnipro River’s eastern bank, insisting that the territory is fully controlled by the Ukrainian military.
However, he recognises that enemy sabotage groups may land but insisted they would ultimately be destroyed or thrown back into the water by Russian fighters.
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Vladimir Saldo stated in a Telegram update that Russian forces have complete control over the area and suggested that the images referenced by ISW might have been of Ukrainian sabotage units who managed to take a selfie across the Dnieper before being pushed back.
In response to reports by Ukrainian media suggesting that the establishment of certain positions indicated the beginning of a counteroffensive, Natalia Humeniuk, spokesperson for Ukraine’s Operational Command South, asked for patience.
She did not confirm or deny the report by ISW and stated that the details of military operations in the Dnieper delta could not be revealed due to operational and security reasons.
Humeniuk also mentioned on Ukrainian television that crossing a wide and powerful river like the Dnieper while the front line passes through it is very challenging work.
According to reports from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Ukrainian forces have established positions near the town of Oleshky, across the Dnieper delta from Kherson, and are advancing towards the nearby village of Dachi.
The ISW also claimed that Ukrainian troops have held these positions for several weeks and secured supply lines, which indicates a lack of Russian control in the area.
However, Russian military figures are reportedly considering consolidating their current gains in Ukraine rather than launching new operations due to material and manpower constraints.
The head of the Wagner Group, financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin, stated that Russian forces need to secure their positions firmly to prevent the opponent from tearing them out.
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