Does Ukraine Have Hope of Recapturing Russian-Held Kherson?
There are few concrete signs that Ukrainian forces are now preparing for a major assault in the south, with military experts noting that the window for such a campaign likely no longer exists.
Russian forces have reached the border of Ukraine’s southern Mykolaiv region, according to top military officials.
“As a result of military operations in the Kherson-Nikolaev [“Mykolaiv” in Ukrainian] direction, in the Alexandrovka area, allied forces destroyed units of the 28th mechanized brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and have reached the administrative border of the Nikolaev region,” announced Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen Igor Konashenkov in a briefing. Konashenkov added that thirty-six square kilometers of the territory of the Kherson region were taken under Russian control. “Allied forces” is the term Moscow uses to refer to the combined operations of the Russian military and Russian-aligned troops belonging to the separatist Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR). Russia’s claimed advances in southern Ukraine have not been independently corroborated.
The claimed progress of Russian forces comes on the heels of long-standing assurances by top Kyiv officials that Ukraine’s armed forces are planning a large-scale counteroffensive in the Kherson region. “You must look for a way to leave because our armed forces will de-occupy. There will be a huge battle. I don’t want to scare anyone, everyone understands everything anyway,” said Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk in the beginning of July. “It’s clear there will be fighting, there will be artillery shelling... and we therefore urge [people] to evacuate urgently.
There are few concrete signs that Ukrainian forces are now preparing for a major assault in the south, with military experts noting that the window for such a campaign likely no longer exists. “If there was a window of opportunity to strike the Russians in this region a few weeks ago, I think that it has now passed,” defense analyst Konrad Muzyka told the Moscow Times. Recent Ukrainian strikes against soft Russian targets in the Crimea and Kherson regions, including bridges, ammunition depots, and airbases, have not been followed by significant Ukrainian ground advances.
Senior Kyiv officials reportedly suggested that their claims of an imminent counteroffensive were part of a deliberate disinformation campaign targeted at the Russian military. “Was it IPSO? Of course, today all public comments are part of the IPSO. We need to demoralize the Russian army. They must understand that there will always be a territory of fire here, that they will be burned here. This is key,” said Ukrainian presidential advisor Mikhailo Podolyak when asked in an interview with the BBC if Kyiv’s Kherson counteroffensive claims were part of a information-psychological operation (IPSO), better known in English as a psychological operation (PSYOP).
The British Defense Ministry assessed earlier this month that Russia is repositioning large numbers of troops to Ukrainian southern occupied territories “in anticipation of Ukraine’s counter-offensive or in preparation for a possible assault.” Senior Ukrainian military official Oleskiy Gromov told reporters in August that Russian forces may be planning to launch an offensive in the broader Kherson region.
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.