The Russian military is pulling out from many parts of Kherson province on day 242 of the war in Ukraine.
A Pontoon Bridge too Far?
Russian forces are withdrawing from the western bank of the Dnipro River in the Kherson province. Their positions have been come unattainable under the constant pressure of the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
But to get across the Dnipro, which is about one kilometer wide, the Russian forces need bridges. Antonovsky Bridge, the major vehicular bridge in the region, has been partially destroyed by the Ukrainian long-range fires interdiction campaign.
To bypass that restriction of movement, the Russian military has built a pontoon bridge adjacent to the severely damaged Antonovsky Bridge. But that doesn’t necessarily ensure that the Russian forces on the western bank will be able to evacuate in time and in good order with all of the weapon systems.
“Although the use of heavy barge bridges was almost certainly included in Soviet-era planning for operations in Europe, it is likely this is the first time the Russian military have [sic] needed to utilise this type of bridge for decades,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest estimate of the war.
“Using civilian barges likely provides Russia additional material and logistics benefits, having lost significant quantities of military bridging equipment and engineering personnel during its invasion,” the British Military Intelligence added.
“If the barge bridge sustains damage, it is almost certain Russia will seek to repair or replace damaged sections quickly, as their forces and crossing points over the Dnipro river come under increasing pressure in Kherson,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.
But the Ukrainian forces have already targeted and attacked the Russian makeshift pontoon bridge (essentially a series of barges strewn together). The fact that the pontoon bridge is right next to the Antonovsky Bridge makes targeting that much harder, even if the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) or M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) are used.
Russian Casualties in Ukraine
Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Saturday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 67,070 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 270 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 243 attack and transport helicopters, 2,579 tanks, 1,653 artillery pieces, 5,266 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 373 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 16 boats and cutters, 4,021 vehicles and fuel tanks, 189 anti-aircraft batteries, 1,341 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 148 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 329 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
Russia and Iran: An Alliance of Pariahs?
There has been a lot of talk about the military assistance that Iran has been providing to Russia. In the past few days, Iranian drones have made their presence known all across Ukraine after the Russian military used them, especially the Shahed-136 loitering munition, to attack Ukrainian urban centers and critical infrastructure.
The cooperation with Tehran is another sign of Moscow’s increasing international marginalization.
The fact that Iran is supplying Moscow with weapon systems is “another sign of how isolated both Russia and Iran are, and they have to rely on each other,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said to Politico.
“They continue to lie to the world but the facts are clear. The Supreme Leader should answer why he has Iran directly engaged on the ground and through the provision of weapons that enable Russia to kill civilians and damage civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. It’s just another example of Iran’s desire to export violence, and both Iran and Russia need to be held accountable for it,” Kirby added.
Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.