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29th Aug 2022

‘It’s on’: Ukraine fights back in the south as tide turns on horror war

Jack Peat

The counteroffensive in Kherson has begun

Ukraine appears to have launched a counteroffensive in the symbolic and strategic city of Kherson.

Nataliya Humenyuk, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Security and Defense Forces ‘South’ command, said the armed forces has launched “offensive actions in many directions in the south of Ukraine” in moves that could prove to be a crucial turning point in the bitter war.

Kherson, a port city of a quarter of a million inhabitants on the right bank of the lower Dnipro river, was the first major city and only regional capital to have fallen to Russian forces since the February invasion.

Russian forces appear more vulnerable here than on other fronts, The Telegraph reports, with an estimated 20,000 troops in a pocket west of the river reliant on three bridges for resupply.

Recapturing Kherson would prove to Ukrainians in other occupied cities that they can yet be liberated. And an advance here could also reassure Western allies who, facing surging energy prices and rising inflation at home, may tire of providing costly support to a war that threatens to develop into a grinding stalemate.

Speaking to the newspaper, one soldier expressed his confidence that Ukraine will prevail in the crucial region.

“We will liberate Kherson, that’s not an expectation but a certainty,” he said. “But we won’t make a counter-offensive until we have more artillery.”

That moment appears to have arrived, and at a crucial point too.

M142 HIMARS – a Mobility Artillery Rocket System – have been deployed on the ground, with 16 launchers and an estimated 200 Ukrainian gunners trained on the systems.

Sunil Nair, an analyst with defence intelligence company Janes, said: “The HIMARS have certainly proved their potential as a potent force multiplier for Ukraine’s existing artillery, along with the other recently received western kit – towed and self-propelled howitzers.

“It is the precision factor with the M31A1 rounds that offers Ukraine a significant new artillery capability over its Soviet-era MRLs. However, for range, the M31 GMLRS round fired from the HIMARS does not provide dramatically greater capability than the BM-27 Uragans or the BM-30 Smerch.

“Hence while the massed artillery fire will come from these and other new artillery systems, the M142 HIMARS will be useful in counter-battery, striking high-value targets in deep and possibly in Suppression of Russian air defence assets (SEAD).”

Reporting on the ground, Illia Ponomarenko, a journalist for The Kyiv Independent, confirmed the Ukrainian military has launched multiple attacks on Russian positions in the Kherson region.

He said: “My theory on what’s happening: the Ukrainian military has found a weak spot in Russian defenses in Kherson Oblast (possibly on the southern bank of the Inhulets River) and decided to deliver a strike.

“I think it’s at the tactical level, but we’ll see.”

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