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Serge AJul 28, 2022 (0)
On the night of July 26, the Ukrainian Armed Forces hit two vital bridges in occupied territory. To grasp the full import, we must revisit the opening salvos of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It was only five months ago, but it seems like decades for those living at war.
On the morning of February 24, Russia launched a full-fledged attack on Ukraine from all directions. From the north, Russian soldiers crossed over from Belarus and headed towards Kyiv. From the east they arrived near Kharkiv and further south near Donbas, which are actually two regions - Lughask and Donetsk. Donetsk includes Mariupol, which is located on the southern side of the eastern border. From the south, they came up from the already occupied Crimea.
Ukrainian Armed Forces were ready. Tank battalions and troops were stationed in anticipation. The problem was that the Ukrainian Armed Forces did not expect an attack of this magnitude - particularly, the attack that came from the south. By the accounts of soldiers who survived those early battles, Ukrainian soldiers were outnumbered in some cases by 20 to one. Ukrainian soldiers did the best they could, but the Russians came in hard and managed to occupy territory not only in the southeastern part of Ukraine but the southwestern part as well. This incident was considered one of the biggest failures of the Ukrainian Army.
To get a better understanding, refer to the map below.
Outlined in red is Ukraine. The blue marks the Dnipro River, which flows from north to south. Ukrainians call the western bank the Right Bank because it is on your right if you navigate with the current, and the eastern bank the Left Bank, as it will be on your left if you let the river carry you to sea.
The greatest upset of the initial attack was that Russian soldiers were able to cross bridges in Kherson, near the Black Sea, and make their way to the Right Bank (western part). From there they continued their attack further west towards Nikolaev and north towards Dnipro, which was where they were finally stopped.
The Dnipro River is wide, and there's no way the Russians could have crossed with their tanks and other heavy equipment if not for the bridges around Kherson – a car bridge along with a railway bridge, as Russians still use the rails to transfer armies around long ranges.
Around two weeks ago, as HIMARS made their way into the Ukrainian military system, one of the first targets was the Antonovsky Bridge in Kherson - the same bridge the Russians used to penetrate the western bank of Ukraine. HIMARS blew about seven holes through one section of the bridge, but Russians were still able to send equipment across to the Right Bank in anticipation of a Ukrainian counterattack. These first hits were slight - a warning to evacuate occupied territories. But the Russian command must have taken the attack as a sign of weakness, and they continued to transfer troops and equipment to the western side.
On July 26, HIMARS struck again. Thanks to very accurate artillery coordinates, HIMARS hit the same spot, poking giant holes across the width and length of the same section. This rendered the bridge useless for any kind of transport. And, most importantly it stranded the troops and equipment already transferred to the western side, as the railway bridge was also hit the same night.
In the map above, the red circles show the destroyed bridges, and the yellow outlines the dam, which can still be used as a bridge with one caveat - it is under complete fire control of the Ukrainian Army. Anything that tries to cross is so close to the Ukrainian Army's line that it will be targeted as soon as it appears.
What will the Russians do next? It is obvious that they were not ready to attack in this direction, even with the fire power deployed to the West bank, as Nikolayev is putting up a monstrous fight and the Russians are stuck northward near Dnipro as well.
It seems like the Ukrainian Army is no longer asking the Russian army to leave. Now they are insisting. A close-up of the two bridges shows that the only way out or in is through a floating bridge, which the Russians are constructing.
How effective can this floating bridge be? The missiles shot at the already damaged bridges hit precisely - they were literally within inches of each other. The floating bridge is a mere 50 yards away. With just a few clicks of correction to artillery coordinates, HIMARS will strike again, and again if needed.
The destruction to the Antonovsky Bridge is devastating.
Today, on July 27, Ukrainians contemplate what comes next. The Ukrainian Armed Forces explain, we will not fight like Russians, we will fight the NATO way. We will not fight fire with fire but rather fire with water. The Russians are on a schedule, we are not. If time is what will make the Ukrainians prevail, we are willing to wait.
Serge A is of Ukrainian descent, grew up in Brooklyn and is volunteering in Ukraine as a legally armed member of a Territorial Defense Group. He was a columnist for the newspaper at Pace University which he attended as an undergrad.
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