HIMARS to the Rescue? Using U.S.-supplied HIMARS missile systems, Ukrainian military forces have struck a strategic bridge in the Russian-occupied city of Kherson, which was then closed to civilian traffic.
The Antonivskyi Bridge – the main crossing point of the Dnipro River in the Kherson region, is used by the Russian military as its primary supply route, and essentially links Ukraine to Russian-annexed Crimea.
The Ukrainian military has said that the goal of this strike and others that have taken place isn’t to destroy the bridges but damage them to close them to heavy traffic, while still allowing civilian traffic to cross.
And this was confirmed as the case by Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-proxy Kherson administration, who told Interfax that the integrity of the Antonivskyi bridge remains intact. However, he said that the bridge was closed to civilian traffic. He characterized the talk about the bridge attack as “hysteria” and that this is a “bluff.”
“Now the bridge is shut off to traffic, which only made life a little more difficult for the population of Kherson and the Kherson region. Let me emphasize again, the outcome of the hostilities, the counterattack, will in no way be dictated by their (Ukraine military) performance,” Stremousov said.
“Traffic on the bridge is blocked. Indeed, another HIMARS strike was launched during the night,” Stremousov wrote on his Telegram channel.
“We have provided for all things like this, and in fact, there are several ferry crossings,” he added.
This wasn’t the first attack on the bridge. Ukraine’s military posted a video on the social media site Telegram on Wednesday night, which reportedly showed several missiles striking the bridge.
Ukraine’s HIMARS Actions Are Preparing For An Offensive To Retake Kherson
The Ukrainian military lost Kherson, which is located just north of Russian-annexed Crimea, in the early days of the war. Since then, Ukrainian forces have conducted several counterattacks but to no avail thus far.
But with the bulk of Russian forces tied up in the eastern Donbas region of the country, there are fewer troops available to Russian commanders in the south. Ukrainian commanders believe this is the time for an offensive to retake the city. Nataliya Humeniuk, a spokeswoman for Operational Command South, echoes that the Ukrainian military wants the bridge infrastructure intact, calling the missile attack “blows to the bridge … but precise.”
“Our forces keep strategic logistics and transport routes under fire control, which are critical to the enemy. We are not destroying the infrastructure; we are destroying the enemy’s plans,” Humeniuk said.
Deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk urged residents to leave the city last month as Ukrainian forces planned to move to “de-occupy” the Russian-held area.
To prepare for a push on Kherson, the Ukrainian military intelligence has trained and sent in an unknown number of guerrillas who blend in with the civilian population, conduct sabotage and assassination missions, and report on the dispositions of Russian troops.
Many Western military officials and analysts, however, doubt that Ukraine has the manpower and heavy weapons for such an undertaking at this time. But as Russian forces are weaker in the region after sending troops to the Donbas, the Ukrainian military believes the time is right for an offensive, as much for the country’s morale as a military objective.
But while they have retaken towns and villages in the region, it has been slow progress, and they are still far – 30 miles – from Kherson. The urban street fighting that would require such an undertaking would be a bloody affair on both sides and likely reduce the city to rubble.
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He served as a US Army Special Forces NCO, and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 11 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.