After weeks of speculation that Ukraine was preparing a large counteroffensive in Kherson, the Ukrainian military on Monday finally began implementing orders to push back Russian soldiers in southeastern Ukraine.
Local reports revealed on Monday that the Ukrainian military broke through Russia’s first line of defense near Kherson, forcing the 109th DPR regiment to withdraw from its positions. Russian paratroopers also reportedly fled the battlefield, putting Ukraine on a good footing to take back control of Kherson and hinder Russia’s progress in the southeast.
Ukraine’s southeast region, overwhelmingly occupied by the Russian military, is strategically important for Russia. Not only does it connect Ukraine to Russia-occupied Crimea, but it also holds coastline on both the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.
The Kyiv Post reported that the Kakhovka operational group promised a “brilliant chance” to regain territories in Kherson and nearby regions using U.S.-supplied HIMARS.
The fresh counteroffensive also follows a series of strikes on Russian supply bridges in the region, cutting off the Russian military from its supply of weapons, ammunition, food and water, and military vehicles.
“Almost all the large bridges in Kherson have already been destroyed – the Russian army have been cut off from the supply of weapons and personnel from Crimea,” the operational group’s message claimed.
Details Available After Operation Complete
Speaking to CNN on Monday morning, Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Operational Command South, confirmed that Ukrainian forces “started the offensive actions in several directions on the South front towards liberating the occupied territories.”
Humeniuk added that full details of the offensive “will be available after the operation is fulfilled.”
Ukraine reportedly chose to strike now because Russian battlefield tactical groups, which are made up of air defense systems, infantry, tanks, and other artillery, are operating at half of their normal manpower. This could explain Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent decree promising to grow the size of his military by 137,000.
Russia’s weakening position in the region is largely a result of Ukraine’s effective use of the HIMARS missile systems supplied by the United States, as well as destroyed supply routes to the south. Recent strikes in Crimea have also served to reduce Russia’s strength there.
CNN’s Jim Sciutto further noted that U.S. intelligence understands Russia has been unable to deploy needed units to the frontlines, leaving its forces vulnerable to this counteroffensive.
Operation Already Underway
Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told CNN on Monday that the operation is already underway, and began on Monday at 7 a.m. local time. The attack, Poroshenko said, involves shelling and missiles.
“This is the first time since February 2022 when such a concentrated [sic] of Ukrainian troops with Western artillery and with western HIMARS and Western missiles was collected together for this counterattack,” the former president said, per Jim Sciutto.
Humeniuk also told Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspilne that the counteroffensive has been going on for a while, in the sense that the Ukrainian military has been “exhausting the enemy and not giving him an opportunity to advance.”
Zelenskyy Hinted At Offensive Last Night
During his nightly address On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared to hint at the upcoming Ukrainian offensive in Kherson.
The Ukrainian president made a vague reference to “further actions” of Ukrainian defenders and insisted he “cannot go into detail.” Zelenskyy also made specific reference to the “return” of Ukraine.
“And Ukraine will return. For sure. Life will return. The dignity of the people of Donbas will return. The ability to live will return. The opportunity to live safely and happily,” Zelenskyy said, stressing that the Ukrainian flag will once again be raised in Donetsk, Horlivka, Mariupol, all cities of Donbas and Azov, and in the Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson regions.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.