Ukraine said Friday it had carried out a series of successful attacks on the Russian-occupied eastern bank of the Dnipro River, days after Moscow admitted Kyiv’s forces had gained a foothold there.
A sustained Ukrainian breakthrough across the frontline river would mark a significant tactical success for Kyiv, whose wider counteroffensive has so far failed to turn the tide of the 21-month war.
“The Defence Forces of Ukraine conducted a series of successful operations on the left bank of the Dnipro River, along the Kherson front,” Ukraine’s Marine Corps said in a statement on social media.
“In cooperation with other units of the Defence Forces, (the marines) managed to gain a foothold on several bridgeheads,” the statement added.
The statement said more than 1,000 Russian forces were killed during the operations and that over 1,200 pieces of hardware had been destroyed, claims that AFP could not independently verify.
Russian and Ukrainian forces have been entrenched on opposite sides of the Dnipro since Moscow withdrew from the western part of Kherson region last November, in an embarrassing setback for the Kremlin.
That was the last major territorial change in the conflict, with both sides having since failed to make progress despite staging multiple offensives.
Since their withdrawal, Russian forces have continuously shelled Ukrainian towns and villages on the western bank of the Dnipro, forcing civilian evacuations.
The regional governor announced early Friday that Russian shelling had left one person dead after a night of Russian artillery “fire terror.”
“I have tragic news. An unidentified woman — with no registered address — was fatally wounded,” Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said.
At least three people were killed and a dozen injured in Russian shelling a day earlier.
Earlier this week, the Russian-installed official responsible for occupied Kherson conceded for the first time that some Ukrainian units had crossed the Dnipro and established positions on the eastern bank.
He said Kyiv’s troops were “blocked” in Krynky, a small village on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, and were facing a “fiery hell” from Russian artillery, rockets, and drones.
The official, Vladimir Saldo, said Ukraine had only been able to cross the river by “throwing meat” — a euphemism for military assaults that involve huge numbers of manpower and encounter heavy losses.
Kyiv hopes the foothold will open up the possibility for a more sustained offensive in the south and towards the annexed Crimean peninsula.
But Russia’s Saldo said the boggy, swamp-like terrain, combined with Russia’s superior manpower and supplies on that side of the river, give them a significant upper hand.
Ukrainian forces earlier this year had been expected to divert troops and armor for a counteroffensive in the south — plans that fell apart after an explosion at the Kakhovka dam flooded swathes of southern Ukraine, making it impassable.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned late Thursday that Moscow was likely stockpiling missiles for strikes on his country’s energy facilities over the coming winter months.
Last year, millions of Ukrainians suffered debilitating electricity blackouts following relentless Russian strikes on power stations and the electrical grid.
“My estimation is that they are accumulating (missiles), but that they don’t have many more missiles compared to what they previously had,” Zelensky told reporters on Thursday, referring to last year’s attacks.
Kyiv has urged its allies abroad to bolster its air defense systems to stave off a repeat of last year when large parts of the country were left in the cold and dark for extended periods.
“In terms of air defence, we are better than we were last winter,” Zelensky said during the meeting with reporters in the capital.
He added that authorities had built more bomb shelters and increased aid points where civilians could keep warm and charge phones in the event of power outages caused by air strikes.
But Zelensky warned in separate comments that Ukraine did not have “100 percent protection” from Russian aerial attacks.
“Cities like Kharkiv, regions like Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia, need more (air defense) systems,” he said in an evening address posted on social media.
He also told reporters that Western sanctions imposed on Russia in response to the war had slowed Moscow’s production of missiles but that their supply of attack drones was “more or less fine.”
“Winter will be difficult but not worse than the previous one,” Zelensky said.