In a Sunday interview, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said that President Volodomyr Zelenskyy had issued orders to prioritize liberating southern Ukraine, with the intention of reaching coastal cities that are critical to the nation’s shipping and economy. On the one hand, this makes a lot of sense. Ukraine needs to move grain, and despite the offers to take grain out by rail through other countries, it really is not possible to get most of that commodity out of Ukraine except by sea. The idea of liberating southern Ukraine would also represent a threat to Russia’s recently created “land bridge” between the Donbas and Crimea, as well as a direct threat to the Crimean peninsula. And all of this might be seen as aligning to recent Ukrainian efforts in both Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts.
On the other hand, the biggest threat to Ukrainian shipping is actually the Russian Black Sea fleet, which is now hanging warily outside the range of shore-based missile batteries, ready to interact with any ship coming from a Ukrainian port. There are a number of deep-water ports from Odesa over to Mykolaiv, and it is not as if international shipping is lining up to carry grain out of those locations. On Monday, Turkish President Recep Erdogan spoke with Zelenskyy about a plan to create “grain corridors” in the Black Sea. It is not clear if this has any relation to Zelenskyy’s reported orders to capture the south.
So is this “southern push” a true statement of Ukraine’s intent, even as Russian forces continue to push in from the east in an attempt to secure the remainder of the Donbas, or is this being thrown out there in hopes of draining Russian forces away. from the real effort, wherever that might be? Trying to figure that out could cause some serious brain strain. Hopefully it does the same for Vladimir Putin.
When it comes to what’s happened in the south over the last few days, there is not a lot of progress to report. Around the city of Kherson itself, Ukraine has bombarded the area of the airport and the town of Chornobaivka, site of a Russian command center, with reports of tremendous success in destroying supplies, buildings, and vehicles. The precision of the attacks has led many to suggest that a HIMARS system is working in this area, but it could easily be strikes from M777s or other long-range artillery supported by drones. Do not expect Ukraine to be straight up about where to find those HIMARS.
When it comes to the actual taking and holding of territory, Ukraine seems to have taken a few villages near Soldatske, but on the other hand Russia has reoccupied a cluster of villages on the west side of the Inhulets River west of Baranivka. (Note: This apparently happened over a series of days last week, I just missed it in updates.)
To the north, Russia is reportedly making another run at eliminating the Ukrainian bridgehead on the east side of the Inhulets south of Davydiv Brid. Some sites have been insisting Ukrainian forces were back across the river two weeks ago, but there are good reasons to believe some force remains on Monday morning, with fighting near the river and artillery striking at Russian forces attempting to reoccupy a pair of villages Ukraine has. held for most of the last month.
The artillery duel here continues to be lopsided in Ukraine’s favor, especially in the area near Kherson. But so far Ukraine does not seem able to secure any of the key locations west of the city that would make it more difficult for Russians to guard the possible approaches. There were reports overnight that Ukraine had taken Kyselivka, and that it was consolidating forces in that area. This is not—not—Confirmed. But if true, would represent a significant shift in the front line, not just bringing Ukrainian forces about 5 kilometers closer to Kherson along a main highway, but forcing Russia from a heavily fortified location.
As with the area around Kherson, there have been numerous reports of Ukrainian artillery at work in the south, with reports of storage facilities, command centers, and rail depots destroyed. However, over the last week, there does not seem to have been a major exchange of territory in this region and on the early Monday FIRMS map, this whole area might as well be snoozing.
Ukraine had moved down to liberate a series of villages, especially in the area of Orikhiv to Hulyaipole. Most of those villages still seem to be under Ukrainian control a week later. However, there are now strongly conflicting reports along the road directly south of Hulyaipole. Some reports have this as an area where Ukraine is continuing to move south, reaching the outskirts of Polohy. Other reports have Russia pushing back along this same road to capture a pair of small villages south of Hulyaipole and dispute other Ukrainian positions. Regard this map as the more pessimistic of these two reports.
A number of towns and villages on the far east of this map, in the area of Donetsk, are listed as in dispute not because there is active combat in the area, but because I haven’t been able to find a good update on their situation since mid-June.
The next few days may tell us whether Zelenskyy’s orders to retake the south are a wish, a feint, or the opening round of a serious push.
Monday briefing from the Ukrainian MOD
- Russia focusing on solidifying control over the Luhansk region and encircling Ukrainian forces in Donetsk oblast.
- Near Siverskyi, Russia continues to attack villages to the east in attempts to secure higher ground before attacking the town. Both sides are exchanging artillery.
- Russia shelled the districts of Karpovychy and Mykolaivka, near Chernihiv, apparently as a traditional Russian “distract them by killing civilians” tactic.
- Russia seems to have most of its forces north of Kharkiv around the Ukraine-Russia border near Slobozhanske. Russia seems more concerned about preventing Ukrainian advances than conducting an attack.
- A series of settlements near Slovyansk are under heavy bombardment from artillery and MLRS.
- A Russian attempt to capture Krasnopillya was repelled. Other attacks were repulsed at Krasnopill and Maryinka.
Nordstream Pipeline shuts down
The Nordstream 2 pipeline was almost ready to begin operations when Putin invaded. It never will. Now Russia has taken down the Nordstream pipeline, claiming it will be out for one month “for maintenance.” However, European officials suspect Russia is trying to prevent them from filling reserve tanks and storage fields in advance of cooler weather and increased demand.
Russian Stuff Blowing Up Theater
This is a Russian oil rig adjacent to Snake Island in the Black Sea. It was actually hit some days ago, during the time Ukraine drove Russian forces from Snake Island.
Reportedly this is in the Donetsk area.
This is the cloud from an explosion at the airport outside Kherson.
This is a different explosion nearby at Chornobaivka, also just outside Kherson. Both of these explosions are just a shadow of a weekend explosion that reportedly resulted from hitting an ammo supply depot.