Ukrainian marines claim multiple bridgeheads across key strategic barrier to Russia

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s Marine Corps said Friday it secured multiple bridgeheads on the eastern bank of the Dnieper River in the Kherson region in fighting that it described as leaving nearly 3,500 Russians dead or wounded and dozens of ammunition depots, tanks, armored vehicles and other weapons destroyed.

The claims from Marine Corps Command are the first to come directly from the Ukrainian military about progress across one of Russia’s most important strategic 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 has been used by Moscow’s forces 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.

Western officials with knowledge of intelligence, 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.”

The Associated Press could not independently confirm Ukrainian reports that it has established a foothold on the eastern bank of the Dnieper River or its claims on the battlefield.

Ukraine did not provide a timeline for how long it took to establish its position on the eastern bank. His forces have crossed the river in small groups since the summer to create a foothold near the Kherson Bridge and, more recently, attempted to expand their presence in nearby villages on the east bank.

The advances 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 was once expected to alter 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 did not include any additional promises of military funds.

Ukraine said its 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. It 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.

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.

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