KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A top Ukrainian official said its troops have established a beachhead on the eastern bank of the Dnieper River near Kherson, an important advance in overcoming one of Russia’s most significant strategic barriers in the war.
Andriy Yermak, head of the president’s office, provided no details but confirmed the development that had been widely discussed in military forums over the past month. “Against all odds, Ukraine’s defense forces have gained a foothold on the left bank,” he told the Hudson Institute, a Washington think tank, in a speech Monday.
Ever since Russian forces left the city of Kherson and the territory around it in November 2022, the only area they controlled on the west bank of the Dnieper, the river became a natural dividing line along the southern battlefront, preventing Ukrainian troops from advancing further towards Russian-annexed Crimea.
The barrier also allowed Russia to concentrate more troops in the heavily mined and fortified Zaporizhzhia region and eastern Ukraine. Crossing the river could allow Ukraine to outflank Russia without having to break through the Zaporizhzhia region and take the most direct land route to Crimea.
Yermak said Ukraine’s military had moved “step by step” toward Crimea and covered nearly three-quarters of the distance there.
Since the summer, Ukrainian forces have crossed the river in small groups to create a foothold near the Kherson bridge and more recently sought to expand their presence in nearby villages on the east bank, including Krynky.
The Institute for the Study of War in Washington said Yermak’s comments confirm its own assessments that Ukraine was conducting larger-than-usual ground operations on the river’s eastern bank and appeared to be holding its positions and supplying troops in the Russian-controlled part of the Kherson region.
Satellite imagery from Monday showed forces advancing on Krynky on the eastern bank about 22 miles (35 kilometers) northeast of Kherson city, the institute said.
Russian military bloggers have reported intense fighting near Krynky.
The Moscow-appointed governor for the Russia-occupied part of the Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo, said Ukrainian forces lost up to two battalions crossing the river and trying to maintain their foothold on the east bank.
On his Telegram channel, he claimed that Ukrainian forces in Krynky were facing a “fiery hell” of intense bombardment and were being destroyed “on a large scale.”
Ukrainian forces have long established positions in several areas on the eastern bank and sought to expand them, using boats to ferry supplies.
Ukraine lost control over almost the entire Kherson region, including the city of Kherson, in March 2022, just after Russia’s invasion started. Russian troops advanced from the Crimean Peninsula, facing almost no resistance even though the Ukraine border was supposed to be heavily guarded.
In other developments:
At least two civilians were killed and 14 wounded in Ukraine in the past day, the president’s office said.
In the eastern Donetsk region, Russians launched a massive missile attack on Selydove that wounded three people and damaged eight high-rise buildings and others.
In the Kherson region, seven people were wounded during shelling of residential areas of Beryslav and the city of Kherson.
Drones killed a 26-year-old man in Nikopol, on the opposite bank of the river from the area near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
In the Kharkiv region, shelling near Izium struck a car and killed a 33-year-old driver and wounded a passenger.
Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia contributed.