Ukrainian forces reportedly reached the east (left) bank of the Dnipro River across from Kherson City. The Ukrainian “Carlson” volunteer special air intelligence unit posted footage on December 3 of Ukrainian servicemen traversing the Dnipro River in boats, reaching a wooden marina-like structure on the east bank, and raising a Ukrainian flag on a tower near the shore. Special Unit “Carlson” reported that this is the first instance of a Ukrainian flag flying over the east bank of the Dnipro River and emphasized this operation will provide a springboard for subsequent Ukrainian operations on the east bank. If confirmed, this limited Ukrainian incursion onto the east bank could open avenues for Ukrainian forces to begin to operate on the east bank. As ISW has previously reported, observed Russian fortifications on the left bank indicate Russian forces are anticipating Ukrainian offensive actions on the east bank and have been constructing defensive lines south of the Dnipro River. The establishment of positions along the eastern riverbank will likely set conditions for future Ukrainian offensive operations into occupied Kherson Oblast if Ukrainian troops choose to pursue this line of advance in the south.
Conditions in eastern Ukraine are reportedly becoming more conducive for a higher pace of operations as winter sets in. A Russian milblogger claimed on December 3 that the ground has frozen along the Kreminna-Svatove line and that he expects that Ukrainian forces will likely increase the pace of their counteroffensive operations in the area as a result. Luhansk Oblast Head Serhiy Haidai also stated on December 2 that weather is finally changing on the Kreminna-Svatove line and that he expects that Ukrainian forces will soon be able to improve their counter-offensive maneuver operations as mud in the area fully freezes. ISW has previously assessed that the overall pace of operations is likely to increase in the coming weeks as consistent cold weather allows the ground to freeze throughout the theater, especially in eastern Ukraine where operations on both sides have been bogged down by heavy mud. Neither Russians nor Ukrainians will likely suspend offensive operations in one of the most optimal times of year for mechanized maneuver warfare in this region.
Russian Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine – Russian Subordinate Main Effort—Donetsk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)
Russian forces continued to conduct offensive operations around Bakhmut on December 3. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults within 13km northeast of Bakhmut near Soledar and within 4km south of Bakhmut near Opytne. Russian milbloggers claimed that reports of Ukrainian forces withdrawing from the suburbs of Bakhmut are false and that serious fighting in Opytne is ongoing. A separate Russian milblogger claimed on December 3 that Ukrainian forces attempted to break through Russian positions near Spirne (within 30km northeast of Bakhmut) and suffered heavy losses on December 2. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Ukrainian forces unsuccessfully attempted to regain lost positions south of Bakhmut near Andriivka and Kurdiumivka.
Russian forces continued to conduct offensive operations in the Avdiiivka-Donetsk City area on December 3. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults within 27km southwest of Avdiivka near Nevelske, Krasnohorivka, and Marinka. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian positions in the vicinity of Nevelske are heavily fortified and that Russian forces are finding it difficult to progress due to current conditions in the area. Geolocated footage posted on December 3 shows Russian forces operating closer to Heorhiivka (within 30km southwest of Avdiivka). The Russian MoD claimed that Ukrainian forces unsuccessfully attempted to regain lost positions near Avdiivka, and Marinka.
Comment: We haven’t posted any ISW assessments for a while so here’s a few excerpts from the latest. The interesting point of the Ukrainian raid on the left bank of the Dnipro near Kherson is that they were unopposed. The Russians are defending well away from the river and aren’t bothering with observation posts or security patrols.
This limited raid may be part of a “shaping of the battlefield” for an eventual river crossing operation to establish a bridgehead and continue the offensive or perhaps the Ukrainians will make one or more “thunder runs” or armored raids well supported by artillery. With the ground frozen and the Russians going hypothermic, This would be a good time for either option.
The Russians clearly intend to continue assaulting Bakhmut until something gives. They’re probably still aiming for Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, but that’s now militarily pointless since they lost Lyman and Izium. I guess they can’t give up the dream of the great caultron even though the northern pincer is long gone.