The Ukrainian military has struck a key bridge over the Dnieper River that the Russian army has used to deploy troops into Kherson City and support them with supplies.
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“On July 19, 2022, the authorities in Russian-occupied Kherson reported that Ukrainian forces had struck the Antonovsky Bridge over the Dnieper River. Social media posts showed apparent battle damage to the bridge’s roadway,” said the UK’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) in its Intelligence Update on July 20.
“The bridge likely remains usable – but it is a key vulnerability for Russian Forces,” the Intelligence Update continued.
The Antonovsky bridge is a crucial river crossing that connects Kherson and Crimea, and the Ukrainian forces are reportedly positioned just several dozen kilometers west of the bridge.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces have targeted the city of Stakhanov in the Luhansk region using the HIMARS, the Luhansk People’s Republic’s (LPR) mission to the Joint Center for Control and Coordination on the ceasefire regime (JCCC) said.
“Shelling was recorded from the side of the armed formations of Ukraine: 22:56 [19:56 GMT on Friday] at Stakhanov, with the use of MLRS HIMARS (one missile),” the LPR mission said in a statement on Telegram.
The Russian Army has also occupied some territory to the west of this bridge which includes Kherson city, and according to the UK MoD, the bridge that was hit is one of the only two road crossings over the Dnieper river for the Russian Army to supply or withdraw its forces in the territory it has occupied.
“The lower reaches of the Dnieper present a natural barrier, with the waterway typically around 1000m wide,” the UK MoD stated.
Therefore, control of Dnieper crossings will probably become a critical factor in the outcome of fighting in the region, including Kherson city, which is politically and symbolically crucial for Russia, said the UK MoD.
Illia Ponomarenko, a Defense reporter with the Kyiv Independent, reported on July 20 that the bridge had been struck again on July 20 and was “reportedly closed for repairs,” complicating Russian logistics across the river.
Another Ukrainian strike upon the Antonovsky Bridge near Kherson. It’s reportedly closed for repairs. This is already complicating Russian logistics across the Dnipro.
I agree with those assuming it’s a message to RU military – “We can cut you off supplies and you’ll be done”. pic.twitter.com/MSn3vvj0Z8
— Illia Ponomarenko ? (@IAPonomarenko) July 20, 2022
“I agree with those assuming it’s a message to RU military – ‘We can cut you off supplies, and you’ll be done,” said Ponomarenko.
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There was a corroborating report by Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency, which quoted Andrei Kartapolov, head of the State Duma (lower house of the Russian Parliament) Defense Committee, as saying that the Antonovsky bridge was struck by 12 rockets from the US-made HIMARS multiple launch rocket system (MLRS).
However, Kartapolov dismissed the attack, saying that the Russian air defense systems could shoot down all the rockets fired from HIMARS, despite the images and videos circulating across social media showing large holes in the bridge.
“The system [HIMARS] is serious, but there are countermeasures – our air defense facilities. Yesterday, they shot down all 12 missiles over the Antonovsky bridge [in the Kherson region],” Kartapolov said.
Serhiy Khlan, a member of the Kherson regional council, said that the Russian army has not been able to transfer weapons and ammunition across the bridge and that there have been no people available to repair the bridge due to fighting. Hence, relevant professionals have to be brought over from Crimea.
While light vehicles such as cars, vans, and even trucks can be seen moving across the holes in the bridge, it will almost certainly collapse if heavy Russian armored vehicles try to pass through, according to experts cited by local media.
These experts noted that around eight rockets fired by the Ukrainian forces have landed inside a circle with a diameter of 20 meters, in a checkerboard pattern, suggesting the strikes were conducted in such a way “to cause maximum damage to the bridge, but not to destroy it.”
Therefore, the Ukrainian military appears to have calculated strikes to render the bridge unusable for Russian armored vehicles but not hinder civilian traffic.
The strike on the Antonovsky bridge could perhaps mark the start of the Ukrainian counter-offensive campaign to retake Kherson Oblast, as it comes shortly after the Ukrainian Defense Minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, revealed that Ukraine is gathering a million-strong fighting force equipped with western weapons to take back its southern territory from Russia.
Reznikov said that President Zelensky had instructed the Ukrainian military to retake coastal areas in Ukraine’s south that are essential to the country’s economy.
“We have approximately 700,000 in the armed forces, and when you add the national guard, police, border guard, we are around a million strong,” Reznikov told The Times.
As stated earlier, two Antonovsky bridges are the only road crossings over the Dnieper river. Of these, one that was struck by Ukrainian forces facilitates vehicle traffic, while the other one is for the railway located near the town of Antonivka on the edges of Kherson.
According to experts cited by the Kyiv Independent, these two bridges will be among the critical sites that Ukrainian forces must destroy to encircle the Russian troops in Kherson and force them to surrender, as they will be cut off from the supplies and reinforcements.
In addition, the Ukrainian troops will have to take control of the M14/P47 highway to the east of Kherson, linking the city with Nova Kakhovka, a prominent Russian military base in Kherson Oblast.
Furthermore, the Russian forces must be cut off from the Kakhovska Hydroelectric Power Plant in Nova Kakhovka, as it acts as a bridge along the M14/P47 highway.
Interestingly, Reznikov had also made a passing reference to the subject of counter-offensive on July 19 during an event hosted by the Atlantic Council, as per a recent EurAsian Times report.
Reznikov said that Ukraine’s military would need around 100 HIMARS to mount an “an effective counter-offensive,” but considering the US has so far agreed to send only 12 HIMARS systems, the latest attacks on Antonovsky bridge could be to test the Russian defenses and divert the attention of Russian forces away from Donbas.