Ukrainian marines claim multiple bridgeheads across key strategic barrier to Russia

Published November 17, 2023 at 8:07 am ET

Updated November 17, 2023 at 2:56 pm ET

Ukrainian marines sail along the Dnieper River on the front line near Kherson, Ukraine, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023. A senior Ukrainian official said Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023, that his troops have established a beachhead in the eastern bank of the Dnieper. River near Kherson, an important advance to overcome one of Russia’s most important strategic barriers in the war. (AP Photo/Alex Babenko, File)

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) – Ukraine’s military said Friday that its troops had secured multiple bridgeheads on the eastern bank of the Dnieper River in the Kherson region, a small but potentially significant strategic advance amid a major war. stagnant measure.

The claims from Marine Corps Command were the first to come directly from the Ukrainian military about progress across one of Russia’s most important barriers. Earlier this week, Andriy Yermak, head of the presidential office, confirmed for the first time that Ukraine had established a foothold on the eastern side of the river.

The wide river is a natural dividing line along the southern battlefront, and Moscow’s forces have used it since they abandoned the area around the city of Kherson in November 2022 to prevent Ukrainian troops from advancing further into Crimea. , annexed to Russia.

Troops are trying to push Russian forces out of the Dnieper to stop shelling that has routinely hit civilian areas on the Ukrainian-controlled West Bank, the general staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a report on Friday.

Western intelligence officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information, said Thursday that Ukraine has parts of three brigades across the river and was expected to make small gains as the Russians have so far failed to repel them. .

“The Ukrainians saw an opportunity there and took advantage of it,” one official said. “What we haven’t seen is the Russians being able to drive them out of that position.”

For months, Ukrainian soldiers have launched raids into Russian-held territory in an attempt to clear the way for more troops to advance through the Kherson region. In October, an Associated Press team witnessed troops setting out in inflatable boats to cross the Dnieper under the cover of fog.

Shelling was heard in the distance, followed by gunshots. At least two of the soldiers on the boats had been shot when they reached shore.

Ukraine did not provide a timeline for how long it took to establish its positions across the Dnieper River or why it decided to announce its achievement this week and whether it indicated they had established a more stable position.

The gains that could open a path to Crimea are considered small in the overall ground war, which intelligence officials said was essentially stalled despite a Ukrainian counteroffensive that earlier in the year was expected to upset the momentum.

“Neither side is currently capable of mounting decisive offensive ground operations in the foreseeable future,” one official said.

Ukraine is fighting off the battlefield for support from its allies as the world’s attention has focused on Israel’s war against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. A U.S. financing package approved Thursday did not include additional aid for Ukraine, and the European Union has said it cannot deliver the ammunition it promised.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in a meeting with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, lamented on Wednesday that divided attention over two world wars had not helped his cause.

Cameron, a former UK prime minister who was appointed to the post in a surprise announcement this week, was in kyiv on his first diplomatic trip to show his support for Ukraine. But the visit was carried out without additional military funds.

The Ukrainian marines said their troops killed more than 1,200 Russian soldiers and wounded more than 2,200 in a series of operations to establish their position on the eastern bank of the river. He said it destroyed 29 ammunition depots, two dozen tanks, four dozen armored fighting vehicles, 89 artillery systems, boats, command posts and other vehicles.

Ukraine did not disclose the number of its own victims.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman General Igor Konashenkov did not directly address reports of Ukraine’s crossing of the Dnieper, but said the day before that his troops had killed or wounded 460 Ukrainians and destroyed two tanks and 17 vehicles that were in Ukrainian-controlled territory. West Bank or try to land on islands in the river.

The Associated Press could not independently confirm either side’s claims about the battlefield.

Zelenskyy posted photos on social media on Friday of troops in small motor boats arriving on the east side, or left bank, of the river.

“The left bank of the Kherson region. Our warriors,” Zelenskyy wrote. “I thank you for your strength and for moving forward.”

When news of Ukraine’s advances across the river broke earlier this week, Moscow-appointed governor of the Russian-occupied part of the Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo, said Ukrainian forces were facing “hell.” burning” in the fighting in the village of Krynky and were being destroyed “on a large scale.”

Saldo said on Telegram that Ukraine had lost up to two battalions crossing the river and trying to maintain its control on the east bank.

Those claims could not be independently verified.

Melley reported from London. Associated Press writer Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.

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