War in Ukraine: Ukrainian counter-offensive launches in the south 

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“the darivka bridge, as well as others including the kakhovka bridge and the antonovsky bridge, have been targeted multiple times by ukraine with high-precision munitions, in order to cut off supply routes and prevent them from being used by russia to transport military equipment, personnel, and more.”

Newsweek

After several weeks of minor battles between Russian forces and Ukrainian defenders this summer, a large-scale counteroffensive began in southern Ukraine on Aug. 29. Due to Ukrainian officials requesting civilians in the region and news media to stay silent to maintain operational secrecy, reports on the its objectives, casualties and progress have been minimal. 

Images of Ukrainian soldiers and vehicles, even if not at the front, can be identified, collected and used by Russia to coordinate a missile strike. As such, this article will not feature any video uploaded or recorded during the counter offensive. Unless put out by a large news group or official government statement, sharing primary information in any way (even on social media) will endanger the lives of the men and women fighting to liberate their country. 

Slow but promising advances made towards Kherson 

According to Newsweek, Ukrainian forces managed to destroy a pontoon bridge near the occupied village of Darivka, hampering Russia’s ability to bring soldiers and supplies across the Inhulets River near Crimea. 

“The Darivka bridge, as well as others including the Kakhovka Bridge and the Antonovsky Bridge, have been targeted multiple times by Ukraine with high-precision munitions, in order to cut off supply routes and prevent them from being used by Russia to transport military equipment, personnel, and more,” Newsweek reported on Thursday, Sept. 1. 

Time Magazine, while also limited by the blackout on reporting the details of the counter offensive, has received several confirmations of progress made by Ukrainian officials. 

In an interview with Ukrainian government advisor Oleksiy Arestyovich, Time reported that the offensive would be done slowly, in part to protect civilians under Russian occupation while ensuring minimal casualties among Ukrainian troops. 

Security analysts point to several reasons for the offensive to be launched at Kherson, for both strategic and morale purposes. 

“Besides its geographical importance, Kherson is an important target for Kyiv given the Russian military’s vulnerability in the region, explains Mark Cancian, a senior security adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a think tank based in Washington. D.C. Some 15,000-20,000 Russian troops are stationed to the northwest of the river — a successful offensive would enable Ukrainian forces to ‘encircle’ and ‘isolate’ their opponents, he says,” Time reported.  

“BESIDES its geographical importance, kherson is an important target for kyiv given the russian military’s vulnerability in the region.”

Mark Cancian

Kherson, like Crimea in 2014, is expected to hold a referendum on joining Russia. Ukraine and its allies have decried any such election as illegitimate and coercive, citing the presence of Russian military units by voting stations in Crimea and the crackdowns on Ukrainian protestors, according to The Guardian. 

Foreign weapons provide Ukrainians an edge in campaign 

Since the first days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, several countries have provided financial aid to Ukraine, as well as shipments of military equipment. While some countries have only promised “non-lethal supplies” such as medical equipment, body armor, rations, temporary hospitals and goods for refugees, the United States has led several other nations in supplying Ukraine with modern weaponry. 

The latest statement by the U.S. Department of Defense on Aug. 24 stated that, with a new $2.98 billion dollar bill, the total sum of security aid to Ukraine since January 2021 has been $13.5 billion. Much of this money has come in the past six months as financial backing and shipments of weaponry, and such support has greatly aided the Ukrainian military in halting Russian advances. 

While portable anti-air and anti-tank missiles such as the Javelin and Stinger managed to shatter Russian armored columns, U.S. shipments now focus on long-range artillery, whose presence will be a key factor in the success of the Kherson counteroffensive. 

On July 26, Al Jazeera reported the potential threat the American High Mobility Rocket Artillery System (HIMARS) would have to Russian artillery systems, which have been the lynchpin of Russian offensives during the late spring and summer. 

“the system is highly cost-effective. individual gmlrs (guided multiple launch rocket system) rockets cost about $100,000. the s300 anti-air batteries and ammunition depots they have destroyed in ukraine cost millions of dollars, and the psychological effects of russian soldiers’ knowing that they can be attacked far behind the line of contact are incalculable.”

Al Jazeera

HIMARS have a normal range between 50 and 75 miles, which far outstretches Russian field and rocket artillery ranges of between 15 and 50 miles. 

“The system is highly cost-effective. Individual GMLRS [Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System] rockets cost about $100,000,” Al Jazeera reported. “The S300 anti-air batteries and ammunition depots they have destroyed in Ukraine cost millions of dollars, and the psychological effects of Russian soldiers’ knowing that they can be attacked far behind the line of contact are incalculable.” 

Other equipment, including the German PzH 2000 and French CAESAR, have been used since July in striking at Russian ammunition depots and bases, including those in Kherson, according to the Associated Press. 

Media Blackout 

No statement has been given by the Ukrainian government as to when the restrictive measures for providing news on Ukraine will be lifted, but it is expected to be once initial stages of the counter offensive are completed.  

One of the few images shared by Ukraine came on Sept. 4, of a village approximately three miles from the front line prior to the counter-offensive. Although home to less than 4,000 people, it has become a symbol of the future for countless other villages, as well as the city of Kherson — which was occupied for more than six months by an unjust and brutal conqueror. 

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