Nearly two weeks after Ukraine accused Russian forces of destroying the Nova Khakovka Dam, Kyiv may see the receding floodwaters as a gateway to Russia’s western flank.
On Saturday, unconfirmed reports emerged claiming Ukrainian Special Forces had crossed the river upstream of the destroyed dam at Nova Khakovka. They are supposedly trying to establish a bridgehead far behind the current frontlines in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, posing a much more immediate threat to Russian defensive lines in occupied Kherson Oblast and Crimea.
There were previous accounts of fighting in the city near the dam itself, as well as heavy shelling.
Once again, these reports are unconfirmed, but they do point to the possibility that the massive changes to the landscape could work, at least partially, in Ukraine’s favor.
Earlier this week, the Russian-affiliated Rybar Telegram channel began warning of a Ukrainian attempt to cross the Dnipro River upstream of the destroyed dam. While surging water inundated lands below the dam, the reservoir above it fell to a much lower level, literally draining what had been a massive natural barrier.
“Ukrainian formations continue artillery preparation along the left bank of the Dnipro River,” the Rybar Telegram channel reported Thursday. “About 30 shells were fired at Nova Kakhovka, Tavriysk, Kakhovka and Vasilievka. In the afternoon, residential buildings in Dnepryan came under shelling – a one-and-a-half-year-old child died.
“Casts of sabotage and reconnaissance groups are just attempts to keep Russian troops on their toes. The likelihood of a landing operation downstream from the Kahkovka hydroelectric power station is small: after flooding, you need to wait until the soil is in order, and during this time the Russian Armed Forces will have time to restore positions.”
However, Rybar said that “a landing scenario upstream is much more likely – right there, yes, the entire section from the Kakhovka reservoir to the dilapidated dam is potentially dangerous.”
If Ukrainian forces are in fact trying to cross at Nova Kakhovka, Russia would face its most direct threat to its positions in Kherson Oblast and occupied Crimea since troops withdrew from the Dnipro’s right bank last fall. Furthermore, Russian forces in Zaporizzhia Oblast would have to account for a massive left flank should more crossings occur upriver.
Before we head into the latest from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.
Saturday’s intelligence update from the British Ministry of Defense assessed Russia has “gained a temporary advantage in southern Ukraine” thanks to attack helicopter operations.
This assessment mirrors The War Zone’s highly-circulated analysis on Russia’s use of attack helicopters to blunt Kyiv’s counteroffensive that we published earlier this week. You can read that report here.
The Institute for the Study of War (@TheStudyofWar) reported Ukrainian attacks on three sectors of the front in its most recent control-of-terrain assessment. Fighting reportedly continues as Ukrainian troops press attacks around Vuhledar.
On the Zaporizhzhia Frontline, Ukrainian forces are fighting for the village of Pyatykhatky, with Kyiv’s troops there advancing toward the city of Vasylivka.
Russian drone footage on the Zaporizhzhia Oblast frontline shows what could possibly be Ukrainian M2A2 Bradley-ODS destroyed in an attack.
Bradleys are becoming a routine sight among the Ukrainian forces fighting in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, as a series of pictures show below.
Photos show one Bradley having been completely destroyed in the fighting, though its crew reportedly survived despite the damage.
On the frontline, video shows intense fighting as seen from a Ukrainian trench as indirect fire crashes down nearby in the Kremina forest. The sector remains the linchpin of Russian forces’ northern flank in occupied east Ukraine.
Elsewhere, video shows just how close quarters things have become since the counter-offensive began. Drone footage captured a Ukrainian assault group dropping grenades into trenches during a close-in fight, while another clip captures the frantic defense as Ukrainians attack.
Also in the north, four Ukrainian civilians are reported to have died after Russian forces attacked their car with an anti-tank weapon in Kharkiv Oblast.
As Ukraine’s counter-offensive continues, much has been said about the state of Russian forces along its defensive line stretching from Kherson to the Russian border, namely their morale and readiness. Dara Massicot (@MassDara), a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, laid out a detailed assessment in a Twitter thread.
Among several observations, Massicot noted not all of the Russian forces were ground down like those in the Donbas after futile winter and spring offensives. Despite more than a year of war, Russian forces have slowly adapted to combat experiences, and it’s far from certain how Moscow’s troops will hold in the face of a determined Ukrainian attack.
An investigation from the New York Times concluded that Russian forces blew up the Nova Kakhovka Dam using an internal passageway, given the fact the massive structure was designed to be near-invulnerable to attacks from the outside.
In Crimea, photos appear to show some rather large cracks in the support pillars under the Kerch Strait Bridge. A barge was seen under the bridge in recent imagery, possibly conducting further repairs.
As for supplying F-16s, Acting Danish Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen said in a speech that Copenhagen is “ready” to send the fighters to Ukraine, per a report from the Danish website Politiken.
Despite those statements, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Ukraine won’t get F-16s until at least 2024. Reznikov noted that despite any condensed training regimen for pilots and the planes’ availability, training for support crews and setting up infrastructure will take much longer.
Video shows a remarkably organized and ergonomic system for a Ukrainian soldier’s grenades in his kit. A quick pull of the velcro strap reveals a stack of hand grenades, each wrapped in hook-and-loop material to keep them secure in the torso pouch.
There are two rather dubious reports from Russian state-run news agency TASS. The first is a reported operation where troops packed an MT-LB personnel carrier with explosives and drove it at a Ukrainian position as a kamikaze vehicle, though there is curiously no video of the tracked bomb reaching its target.
This isn’t the first reported use of an MT-LB in this role. Ukrainian troops told of one of the aging artillery tractors lumbering without a crew up to their position before exploding in February.
Also from TASS is the claimed destruction of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, one that looks rather curiously a lot like a Dutch YPR-765 APC. The whole production is even more comical, with a staged “demining” followed by a jump cut to the YPR-765.
Also in the world of the bizarre, there’s rather remarkable footage of a BMP-2 doing some remodeling work. The IFV backs out of a house and onto the ground more like a bulldozer than a combat vehicle, bricks and plaster falling to the ground around it.
That’s all for now. We’ll update this story when there’s more to report about Ukraine.