Despite the lack of significant territory gains for Kyiv so far, a succession of apparent Ukrainian strikes and logistical problems for Russian forces in week 25 of the war may indicate that Ukraine’s anticipated southern counteroffensive is still achievable.
This appears to be the first serious attack by Ukraine on a Russian facility on the peninsula; on August 9, the country’s military claimed that nine Russian jets were destroyed in explosions at the Saky airport in Crimea, which is located 225 kilometers (140 miles) behind the front line.
Subsequent satellite photography revealed seven completely destroyed and several severely damaged aircraft at Saky.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed in his evening address that “in only one day, the occupiers destroyed 10 combat aircraft: nine in Crimea and one more in the direction of Zaporizhzhia.” Ukraine did not officially claim responsibility for the attack.
Apparently, someone at the site accidentally let off some aviation weapons, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense.
The targets “are much beyond the range of the US-provided systems,” according to the Institute for the Study of War. However, “Ukrainian troops have numerous systems that they could have employed or modified,” the report continues.
However, according to reports from inside Ukrainian territory obtained by The New York Times, the attack was carried out by partisans operating behind enemy lines.
Against the same day, separate attacks were carried out on the command post of the 217th Guards Airbourne Regiment in Maksyma Horkoho on the southwestern Kherson shore, and on ammunition warehouses in Novooleksiivka in Crimea, 150km (93.2 miles) south of the front line.
Ukrainian forces have regularly claimed responsibility for destroying Russian ammunition stores and logistical choke points, and Ukrainian officials have warned since July that Kyiv is preparing a counteroffensive to take back lands in Kherson oblast.
However, in recent weeks, it appears that the Ukrainian military has adopted a new strategy of increasing unclaimed strikes in both Kherson and the neighboring Crimean peninsula. On Russia’s Navy Day, July 31, a drone from what is believed to be Ukraine attacked the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, hurting five people.
The targeting of logistics hubs has gone hand-in-hand with hitting logistics routes. To prevent the Russian army from resupplying its forward positions on the west bank, Ukraine has degraded bridges across the Dnieper river in Kherson oblast in recent weeks. On August 10, Ukraine’s southern command said it rendered the bridge across the Dnieper at the Kakhovska hydro-electric power station unusable for use by the Russian troops. Defense officials in Britain say this means Russian forces can only use the two pontoon ships they came.
According to the Institute for the Study of War, “bringing ammunition, gasoline, and heavy equipment adequate for offensive or even large-scale defensive operations via pontoon bridges or by air is unfeasible, if not impossible.”
There is a high probability that Russian forces on the western bank of the Dnieper will no longer be able to withstand even modest counterattacks from the Ukrainian side of the river.
A widespread counteroffensive, however, has not yet occurred.