Along the southern front — seen as perhaps Ukraine’s main strategic priority, with the aim of breaking Russia’s land bridge to Crimea by punching through to the Sea of Azov — reports continue to suggest Ukrainian and Russian forces involved in very heavy fighting.
Brig. Gen. Oleksandr Tarnavsky, commander of the Tavria Joint Forces Operation that is operating on a large section of the southern Ukraine front, told Ukrainian television Saturday morning his soldiers were “systematically driving the enemy from their positions.”
He listed 33 pieces of Russian equipment destroyed in the latest Ukrainian attacks, including armored personnel carriers, artillery pieces and an anti-aircraft missile system, among others. Those encouraging words, from Ukraine’s perspective, are yet to translate into long lists of liberated towns and villages, however.
Russian military blogger Rybar also claimed further Ukrainian pressure on Russian positions near the Zaporizhzhia region village of Robotyne, which is south of Orikhiv in an area that has seen small gains by Ukrainian forces over the last week.
Which side has the advantage? Analyst Rob Lee, a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Eurasia Program, says it is difficult to measure which side currently holds the upper hand in the absence of significant territorial gains by either.
“Both sides are taking attrition right now … but it is not clear which side can sustain it better,” he told the Geopolitics Decanted podcast.
“On the Russian side, if they take enough losses and Ukraine can isolate parts of the front, (then Ukrainian forces) may be able to achieve a breakthrough. On the flip side, if Ukraine keeps taking losses and more attrition, the offensive might culminate too soon, before they make it to (Russia’s) main defensive lines, which lie another 10 to 15 kilometers (about 6 to 9 miles) to the south,” Lee said.
One part of Ukraine’s current campaign that does seem to be achieving tangible results is strikes on targets behind front lines. These are aimed at disrupting and degrading Russian supply lines as well as targeting Russian command bases and soldiers’ barracks.
In his comments Saturday morning, Tarnavsky told Ukrainian TV viewers that nine Russian ammunition depots had been destroyed in the last day. He did not say where the depots were located, but it is likely they were a substantial distance from the front lines.
Earlier this week, a senior Russian general was killed when a Ukrainian missile hit the base of Russia’s 58th Combined Arms Army in the occupied port city of Berdiansk.