- According to the ISW, open-source information on Ukrainian troop progress "will likely be limited and lag behind events."
- The British defence ministry confirmed Moscow strengthened its defensive positions across occupied southern Ukraine in "likely response to anticipated Ukrainian offensives."
Ukraine claims that it will retake Kherson by September with the help of Western weapons. Ukrainian military officials have declared a “turning point” in the battle to retake Kherson’s southern region, declaring that they will use Western weapons to liberate the first major city captured by Russian forces by September.
In an interview with Ukrainian television on Sunday, Sergiy Khlan, an aide to the administrative head of the Kherson region, said, “We can say that a turning point has occurred on the battlefield.” We’re shifting from defensive to offensive tactics.”
“We can confidently predict that the Kherson region will be liberated by September, and that all of the occupiers’ plans will fail,” he added.
Ukrainian forces have been clawing back territory in the southern Kherson region in recent weeks, aided by deliveries of western-supplied long-range artillery, adding to speculation that its troops are edging closer to a long-promised counteroffensive.
During his national address on Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy endorsed claims of a successful counteroffensive, saying Ukrainian forces were moving “step by step” into the city.
On March 3, the Russian army occupied Kherson, the first major Ukrainian city captured by Russian forces since February 24.
Officials in Ukraine believe that Russian troops were able to take the city in part because Ukrainian security agents failed to blow up the Antonivskyi bridge, which crosses the Dnipro River, allowing troops to enter the city.
However, a recent increase in strikes against key Russian weapons stores and logistics in the southern city has prompted Ukraine’s military to claim that its forces have moved within range of Russian targets.
Ukrainian forces used US-supplied artillery to target the Antonivskyi bridge last week.
The site is a “key vulnerability” for Russian forces, according to UK officials, and if “crossings are denied, and Russian forces in occupied Kherson are cut off, it would be a significant military and political setback for Russia.”
In a Facebook post on Saturday, Aide Khlan stated that Ukraine’s offensive was a “continuation of the operation to cut off the Kherson group of Russians from supply” and that “it would not have been possible without Western armament.”
Ukrainian strikes “have damaged all three Russian-controlled bridges leading into Kherson City within the past week as of July 24,” according to a report released on Sunday by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington-based think tank.
According to the ISW, open-source information on Ukrainian troop progress “will likely be limited and lag behind events.”
“Kherson was occupied from the beginning, and Russia truly believed that it would be able to hold a referendum and create the HPR [Kherson people’s republic] here with Russian rules and orders,” Khlan said in his latest operational update on Sunday evening.
“Our people have been resisting for nearly half a year… Occupiers are attempting to forcefully and mentally conquer us, but we will persevere and undoubtedly win.”
Russian military officials, on the other hand, tell a different story.
“There will be no counteroffensive,” Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-installed regional authority in Kherson, told RIA Novosti on Sunday.
Despite Russian denials, the British defence ministry confirmed Moscow strengthened its defensive positions across occupied southern Ukraine in “likely response to anticipated Ukrainian offensives.”
“Given the pressures on Russian manpower, the reinforcement of the south while the fight for the Donbas continues likely indicates the seriousness with which Russian commanders regard the threat,” the ministry said in a report published on July 17.