Last Monday, Ukraine’s army confirmed that it had launched its counterattack to reclaim southern territories. In its latest bulletin, the MoD said Ukraine’s army was advancing on a broad front west of the Dnipro River. While acknowledging Ukraine’s military operation had limited “immediate objectives’, the UK intelligence analysts said it had likely achieved a “degree of tactical surprise”.
They wrote: “Since August 29, 2022, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have been conducting renewed offensive operations in the south of Ukraine.
“One element of this offensive is an ongoing advance on a broad front west of the Dnipro River, focusing on three axes within Russian-occupied Kherson Oblast.
“The operation has limited immediate objectives, but Ukraine’s forces have likely achieved a degree of tactical surprise; exploiting poor logistics, administration and leadership in the Russian armed forces.
“With fighting also continuing in the Donbas and Kharkiv sectors, a key decision for Russian commanders in coming days will be where to commit any operational reserve force they can generate.”
Kyiv has sought to dampen expectations of a quick victory against the Russians in the south and has urged the public to be patient.
Oleksiy Arestovych, a senior adviser to President Zelensky, said the counteroffensive was a “planned slow operation to grind the enemy”.
He wrote on his Telegram channel: “We do not fight for show-offs and high-profile phrases as an enemy.
“We fight for a cause. And this thing takes time and effort. Therefore, be patient.
“This process will not be very fast, but will end with the installation of the Ukrainian flag over all the settlements of Ukraine.”
Illia Ponomarenko, a defence reporter for the Kyiv Post, believes the initial aim is to isolate Russian troops stationed on the right bank of the river Dnipro.
He argued the offensive would be a slow grinding affair, as Ukraine’s army was not in a position to take reckless risks.
He wrote: “My hypothesis on what’s Ukraine doing in Kherson region.
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“The Ukrainian military likely put a stake on gradually exhausting and embattling Russia’s grouping on the Dnipro right bank — while also keeping it isolated from supplies and from across the river.
“So Ukrainian forces are likely probing Russian defences all along the line, looking for weak spots, trying to advance and capitalise on their gains if possible.
“It certainly does not have enough manpower and hardware for a reckless, costly, Russian-style frontal attack that would guarantee nothing but a high Ukrainian death toll.”
He added: “I think this operation is not about territorial gains per se, but about grinding the Russian group of 20-25 BTGs down in hard combat until it just can’t go on due to losses, and a total lack of supplies and fresh reinforcements.
“So I don’t think it makes sense to expect any impressive territorial gains, let alone Ukraine retaking Kherson, any time soon.”
Mr Ponomarenko’s analysis is shared by others who are currently serving in the Ukrainian army.
Volodymyr Demchenko, a film director who is now a soldier, said: “In general, in my personal opinion, the main goal of this operation is not the capture of Kherson, but the defeat of the Russian group north of Kherson, right between the Ingulets and Dnipro rivers.”
Michael Bond, a social media user from Canada, argued it made sense to defeat the Russians stationed to the north of Kherson
This would enable the Ukrainians to seize control of the Nova Kakhova dam, which provides water to Crimea.
He wrote: “Taking Nova Kakhovka would take control of Crimean water flow, establish an ability to cross the river below Dnipro and drive the Russians away from supply lines at Kryvyi Rhi.”