Artillery vehicle

In southern Ukraine, artillery from Kyiv builds bridges and isolates an entire Russian army

The 49th Combined Arms Army is the main Russian force in Kherson Oblast in southern Ukraine.

This makes it the main Ukrainian army target as the Ukrainians put more weight behind their counter-offensive in Kherson.

In recent days, the Ukrainian army has systematically cut off the main supply lines of the 49th CAA. The Russians adapt. But the tension in the staff of the 49th CAA must be palpable. And not just because the Ukrainian military has become skilled enough to blow up these headquarters.

The 49th CAA is one of twelve field armies that oversee the bulk of the Russian Army‘s frontline forces. The Kremlin has committed 10 of these armies to Russia’s wider war in Ukraine.

The 49th CAA on paper is a powerful force. It draws its roughly 10 battalion tactical groups – each with several hundred troops and dozens of vehicles – from motorized, air assault and coastal defense regiments, brigades and divisions. In total, the 49th CAA could oversee 10,000 troops.

These troops are struggling with an unfavorable geography. The port city of Kherson with its 300,000 pre-war inhabitants is the center of gravity of the oblast occupied by the 49th CAA. Holding Kherson is at the heart of Russia’s war aims. liberator he is at the center of Ukrainian war aims.

But Kherson is surrounded by water. The city sits on the northwest bank of the wide Dnipro River, which meanders south through Ukraine before emptying into the Black Sea. The Inhulets River, a tributary of the Dnipro, cuts Kherson Oblast to the south and merges with the Dnipro to the east of the port.

There are three main bridges that connect Kherson with the southern and eastern territory: the Antonovsky bridge over the Dnipro at the southern edge of Kherson as well as a nearby railway bridge, as well as the P47 road bridge over the Inhulets just outside the city.

Ukrainian artillery – possibly 155 millimeter guns firing Excalibur GPS-guided shells – at least temporarily destroyed all three bridges last week. The Antonovsky Bridge became impassable on Wednesday.

“The city of Kherson, the most politically important population center occupied by Russia, is now virtually cut off from other occupied territories,” the UK Ministry of Defense said. announced Thursday.

“All will be rebuilt, but by us,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said of the bridges. “We are doing everything so that the Russians have no logistical opportunities on our lands.”

Russian engineers quickly erected pontoon bridges over the Dnipro next to the Antonovsky Bridge as well as along the P47 Bridge. Engineers recently dismantled these last pontoons after repairing the P47 bridge. But the pontoon bridge next to the damaged Antonovsky span, as well as a ferry in the same area, remain the only way for vehicles to cross the Dnipro to Kherson.

It goes without saying that pontoons and ferries are extremely vulnerable to Ukrainian artillery. The Dnipro Floating Bridge is clearly visible in satellite images.

Ukraine’s counter-passing operations have an explosive corollary. Deleting staff blocks coming supply. Meanwhile, detonating Supply Dumps eliminates running supply. Ukrainian artillery and rockets over the past two weeks hit several Russian supply dumpswith predictable fiery results.

The Ukrainian objective is obvious. Starve the 49th CAA and its ten battalions so that if and when the Ukrainian brigades reach the outskirts of Kherson, the Russian units will be unable to mount a serious defense.

It is difficult to predict if, when and to what end this battle could take place. For months the Ukrainians have been slowly advancing south from Free Mykolaiv, 40 miles northwest of Kherson, as well as south from their bridgeheads across the Inhulets.

It is unclear how close Ukrainian formations are to Kherson. Close enough, of course, to fire 155 millimeter shells at the bridges south of town. Fifteen thousand ? Twenty thousand ?

In any case, they are not far. And as they close the distance, they tighten the logistical noose around the 49th CAA.

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