Ukrainian marines claim multiple bridgeheads across a key Russian strategic barrier
Published Friday, November 17, 2023 7:31AM EST
KYIV, UKRAINE -- Ukraine's marine corps said Friday it has secured multiple bridgeheads on the eastern bank of the Dnieper River in the Kherson region in fighting it described as having left nearly 3,500 Russians killed or wounded and dozens of ammunition depots, tanks, armoured vehicles and other weaponry destroyed.
The Marine Infantry Command's claims are the first to come directly from the Ukrainian military about advances across one of Russia's most significant strategic barriers. Earlier this week, Andriy Yermak, head of the president's office, confirmed for the first time that Ukraine had established a foothold on the eastern side of the river.
The wide river is a natural dividing line along the southern battlefront and Moscow's forces have used it since leaving the area around the city of Kherson in November 2022 to prevent Ukrainian troops from advancing further toward Russian-annexed Crimea.
Western officials with knowledge of intelligence, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive information, said Thursday that Ukraine has portions of three brigades across the river and was expected to make small gains as Russians have so far been unable to repel them.
"The Ukrainians have seen an opportunity there and taken it," one official said. "What we've not seen is the Russians being able to push them back from that position."
The Associated Press could not independently confirm the Ukrainian reports that it has established a foothold on the eastern bank of the Dnieper River or its battlefield claims.
Ukraine provided no timeline for how long it took to establish its position on the eastern bank. Its forces have crossed the river in small groups since the summer to create a foothold near the Kherson bridge, and more recently sought to expand their presence in nearby villages on the east bank.
The gains that could open up a path to Crimea are considered small in the overall ground war, which intelligence officials said was essentially at a standstill despite a Ukrainian counteroffensive that had once been expected to alter the momentum.
"Neither side is currently capable of mounting decisive offensive operations on the land in the foreseeable future," one official said.
Ukraine is struggling off the battlefield for support from allies as the world's attention has turned to Israel's war against Hamas militants on the Gaza Strip. A U.S. funding package passed Thursday included no additional aid for Ukraine, and the European Union has said it can't deliver the munitions it promised.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a meeting with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron on Wednesday lamented that the divided attention on two wars in the world had not helped his cause.
Cameron, a former U.K. prime minister who was appointed to the post in a surprise announcement this week, was in Kyiv on his first diplomatic trip to show his support for Ukraine. But the visit came with no additional promise of military funds.
Ukraine said its troops killed more than 1,200 Russian soldiers and wounded more than 2,200 in a series of operations to establish its position on the eastern riverbank. It said it destroyed 29 ammunition stores, two dozen tanks, four dozen armoured combat vehicles, 89 artillery systems, watercraft, command posts and other vehicles.
Ukraine did not disclose the number of its own casualties.
When news of Ukraine's advances across the river were reported earlier in the week, the Moscow-appointed governor for the Russia-occupied part of the Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo, said Ukrainian forces were facing a "fiery hell" in fighting in the village of Krynky and were being destroyed "on a large scale."
Saldo said on Telegram that Ukraine had lost up to two battalions crossing the river and trying to maintain their hold on the east bank.
Those claims could not be independently verified.
Associated Press writer Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.