Ukrainian Troops Cross Dnipro River, Building Positions for Possible Counteroffensive

For the first time since the early days of the invasion, Ukrainian soldiers have crossed the Dnipro River, according to analysts who suggest that they have established positions that could be used to launch attacks deeper into Russian-occupied territory. This move comes shortly after reports of a partial Russian retreat in the region, marking a significant shift in the conflict.

Potential Counteroffensive

The Ukrainian army is reportedly gearing up for a counteroffensive, which analysts speculate could push 160km south of the Dnipro River at least as far as Crimea. The Institute for the Study of War, based in the United States, said that video and photos have generated the first “reliable geolocated imagery of Ukrainian positions” south of the river. However, the extent and intent of these positions remain unclear, as does Ukraine’s ability and willingness to maintain sustained positions in the area.

Russian Military Bloggers Report Ukrainian Activity

Several Russian military bloggers have used geolocation techniques to pinpoint Ukrainian military positions around the village of Oleshky, south of the Dnipro River. Russian military blogger “Thirteenth,” who has more than 100,000 followers, posted a video that he said showed Ukrainian special forces using fast small boats to land on the river bank, where “they have been hanging out for a couple of weeks.” Another blogger, Rybar, who has links to the Russian security services and has more than 1 million subscribers, posted a lengthy blog on the “foothold” the Ukrainian forces have secured.

Russia Denies Ukrainian Activity

Vladimir Saldo, the Russia-installed head of occupied Kherson region, denied that Ukrainian soldiers had set up positions on the southern bank of the Dnipro River. “Our military is in full control,” he said. “Although there may be isolated cases of enemy soldiers managing to take a selfie on the bank before being hit by artillery and destroyed.” If it is confirmed that Ukrainian soldiers have indeed broken across the river, it would be a major blow to Russian forces who had relied on the Dnipro River as part of their defence.

Critical Region for Control of Crimea

The battle for Kherson region is critical for control of Crimea, which the Kremlin annexed in 2014. Russian forces have been digging trenches for the past six months, and satellite images have shown a web stretching across the Kherson region. However, more recent reports have indicated that Russian soldiers have been abandoning their positions. On Tuesday, a Ukrainian military spokesman said that it had seen Russian soldiers packing up their kit and sending it home, as they did in November before they retreated from Kherson city.

The recent crossing of the Dnipro River by Ukrainian soldiers is a significant move that could signal the start of a counteroffensive aimed at regaining control of Crimea. While the extent and intent of the Ukrainian positions remain unclear, the move is a clear challenge to Russian forces who have relied on the river for defence. The situation remains fluid, but the battle for the Kherson region is a critical one, and developments will be closely watched.

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