A Ukrainian counter-offensive has virtually cut off the Russian-occupied southern city of Kherson and left thousands of Russian troops stationed near the Dnipro River “highly vulnerable”, British defence and intelligence officials said on Thursday.
Ukraine has made clear it intends to recapture Kherson, which fell to Russia in the early days of the invasion launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24.
Britain’s Defence Ministry said Ukrainian forces have probably established a bridgehead south of the Ingulets River, and had used new, long-range artillery to damage at least three of the bridges crossing the Dnipro.
“Russia’s 49th Army, stationed on the west bank of the Dnipro River, now looks highly vulnerable,” it said in a regular intelligence bulletin on Twitter, adding that Kherson was virtually cut off from the other territories occupied by Russia.
“Its loss would severely undermine Russia’s attempts to paint the occupation as a success.”
Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, earlier tweeted that Russia was concentrating “the maximum number of troops” in the direction of the Kherson but gave no details.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said Russia was conducting a “massive redeployment” of forces from the east to the south in what amounted to a strategic shift from attack to defence.
Zelenskiy said Ukraine would rebuild the Antonivskyi bridge over the Dnipro and other crossings in the region.
“We are doing everything to ensure that the occupying forces do not have any logistical opportunities in our country,” he said on Wednesday.
Russian officials had earlier said they would turn instead to pontoon bridges and ferries to get forces across the river.
Russian-backed forces on Wednesday said they had captured the Soviet-era coal-fired Vuhlehirsk power plant, Ukraine’s second-largest, in what was Moscow’s first significant gain in more than three weeks.