Kherson direction: Activity of the APU on the left bank, the situation as of 18.00 on October 17, 2023.
Last night, at least four groups of then AFU 35th and 36th Marine Brigade from the Katran strike group landed at the railway bridge on Oleshkynsky Island and tried to advance to Pishchanivka and Oleshky. As a result of artillery fire on enemy movement areas, eight people were injured. The advance of the Marines was suspended, and the wounded were transferred to the shore for evacuation.
In the afternoon, two assault groups of the AFU 35th and 36th Marine Brigades, after regrouping, continued their attack along the railway bridge. As a result of the breakthrough, with the support of artillery and FPV drones, the Marines were able to occupy the village of Poima. There, enemy units took up a perimeter defense, and after reinforcements arrived, they reached the northern outskirts of Pishchanivka. According to some reports, several houses on the northern outskirts were occupied by Ukrainian formations.
The tactical success of the assault detachments of the 36th brigade creates the preconditions for a more active entry of the Katran strike group into battles in the Kherson direction . This is indirectly confirmed by the movement of counter-battery weapons to the contact line, such as the Cobra and AN/TPQ-36 radars, as well as Bukovel electronic warfare stations, which, as a rule, are kept at a distance because of their value.
And the question arises: how was such a breakthrough allowed to reach two populated areas? We wrote for several months that there is a bridgehead of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the island zone and in some areas of the left bank of the Dnieper, but no measures were taken. I would like to believe that the threat will now be taken more seriously.
Looking at the actions of the APU, there are clearly consistent attempts to expand the bridgehead before the offensive. Today’s attack on the airfield in Berdyansk is one of the preparatory stages. The use of ATACMS increases the threat level for aviation even in the deep rear, which may force the command to pull it further away from the line of contact. This will increase the period from departure to the involvement of the Russian Air Force to support ground forces, which is beneficial for the AFU in the south. Given that the Berdyansk airfield is out of action for a while, the next target is likely to be Dzhankoy and other bases in the Crimea. They are one of the main obstacles to conducting a full-scale operation on the Dnieper.
Comment: It’s now been a week since the Russian warblogger Rybar wrote this. There were comments at the time that he was exaggerating things in order to report about the Russians heroically throwing the Ukes back in the river in a few days. Given that he mentioned two groups attacking which usually means two platoons, I figured it was a raid or a reconnaissance in force that would retreat back to the river bank if not back across the river in two or so days.
But here it is nine days later and not only are Ukrainian Marines still appear to be fighting in the villages of Poima and Pishchanivka. Not only that, but another landing took place a few kilometers up the river and Ukrainian Marines have taken Krynky. The crossings are still limited, but they are persistent and slowly expanding. I think the immediate goal on this front is to keep the Russians closely engaged so they can be chewed up by Ukrainian artillery and drones. The Russians are also forced to keep sufficient forces here rather than further west. This could expand into another front of the counteroffensive, but it’s far too early to call it that.
I know how some of you go apoplectic at the mention of ISW, but they offer a good discussion of recent Ukrainian actions and Russian troop movements on this front.
Ukrainian forces continued larger-than-usual ground operations on the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast on October 20 and established a confirmed presence in a settlement on the east bank. Geolocated footage published on October 19 indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced into northeastern Krynky (27km east from Kherson City and 2km from the Dnipro River). Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces are establishing a foothold near Krynky and continue to maintain their presence near the Antonivsky roadway and railway bridges. A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces temporarily advanced further into Krynky up to the Kozachi Laheri-Krynky-Korsunka road before Russian airstrikes pushed Ukrainian troops back to the northern outskirts of the settlement. Another Russian milblogger claimed that fighting is ongoing near Pishchanivka (14km east from Kherson City and 4km from the Dnipro River) and that a Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group is operating on the southern outskirts of the settlement. The prominent Russian milblogger suggested that Russian forces only maintained positions on the southern outskirts of Pishchanivka as of the afternoon of October 18, and the Ukrainian General Staff reported on October 19 that Russian aviation struck Pishchanivka, implying that Ukrainian forces were still operating in the settlement. ISW has not observed any other visual confirmation of Ukrainian forces maintaining positions in east bank settlements other than Krynky, however.
Russian and Ukrainian sources continue to indicate that the Russian units defending the east bank of Kherson Oblast are relatively less combat effective than other Russian forces elsewhere on the front. A Ukrainian military observer stated that the Russian Dnepr Grouping of Forces is primarily comprised of elements of the 49th Combined Arms Army (Southern Military District) and likely elements of the newly created 18th Combined Arms Army. The majority of the 49th Combined Arms Army (CAA) has been deployed to east bank Kherson Oblast since Russian forces withdrew from the west (right) bank, and elements of the 49th CAA’s 205th Motorized Rifle Regiment have since suffered significant casualties. The United Kingdom Ministry of Defense (UK MoD) reported on August 21 that the Russian military was likely forming the new 18th CAA from other units currently operating in Kherson Oblast, and it is unlikely that the new units of the 18th CAA are entirely comprised of fresh forces or staffed to doctrinal end strength. The deployment of the 18th CAA to Kherson Oblast is reminiscent of the rushed deployment of the newly created 25th CAA to the Kupyansk and Lyman directions in early September 2023, and the 18th CAA likely faces similar issues with a lack of personnel, equipment, and proper training. A Russian milblogger claimed that elements of the 26th Motorized Rifle Regiment, reportedly of 70th Motorized Rifle Division of the 18th CAA, are defending against Ukrainian activities near Krynky. Another Russian milblogger claimed that elements of the 1st Battalion of the 177th Naval Infantry Regiment (Caspian Flotilla) are operating near the Antonivsky railway bridge. Elements of the 177th Naval Infantry Regiment have been defending in western Zaporizhia Oblast since the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive and have likely suffered significant casualties.
Note: The title comes from a short feature I watched almost religiously as a child. It appeared on the local Hap Richards Show along with a lot of vintage Popeye cartoons. This show came from the other side of the pond, but I closely identified with both the small stream and the animals. The British mannerisms and accents never phased me. That was good TV.