Ukraine Situation Report: Gaining Ground In Kherson

After an appeal for help by the Russian-installed head of the Kherson Oblast, Moscow says it will evacuate residents there, a sign that Ukraine is gaining ground in its southern counteroffensive.

Marat Khusnullin, a Russian deputy prime minister, told state television on Thursday that Moscow would help move residents away from the region, “which remains only partly occupied by invading troops due to a successful Ukrainian counterattack in recent months,” The Guardian reported.

Khusnullin was replying to a call from the Russian-appointed governor of Kherson, Volodymyr Saldo, who called for Moscow to take in residents in an appeal on his Telegram channel Thursday.

“I am addressing the leadership of [Russia]. I’d like to ask you for help in organizing this,” he said, according to FT, adding that he was recommending evacuation primarily to people living on the western side of the Dnipro river, where Ukraine is gaining ground.

In the beginning of October, Ukrainian forces broke through the Russian front lines in Kherson, the Russian Defense Ministry (MOD) acknowledged at the time, according to FT. “That marked Ukraine’s biggest advance in the south since Moscow’s full-scale invasion began in February.” 

Ukrainian forces have since “recaptured significant territory west of the Dnipro,” FT reported, adding that Ukraine’s Operational Command South on Thursday said it had liberated five more settlements in the Kherson region from Russian control. 

“Western military officials estimate Ukraine could take Kherson up to the Dnipro as soon as next week,” FT reported.

There are now claims that Russian forces have apparently received orders to halt their offensive in some areas, especially around Donetsk, according to the Kyiv Independent, citing the Ukraine General Staff.

“The main reasons behind those orders are ‘the extremely low morale and psychological condition of the recruits, numerous facts of desertion, and refusing to obey combat orders,'” according to the Kyiv Independent.

In its latest assessment, the Institute for the Study of War said there are ongoing battles raging in the east and south.

ISW offered several key takeaways:

  • Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian troops continued counteroffensive operations toward Svatove and Kreminna in the east. Russian forces are continuing defensive operations in this area.
  • Russian sources continued to claim that Ukrainian forces are conducting ground attacks in northwestern and western Kherson Oblast.
  • Russian forces conducted ground attacks around Bakhmut and Avdiivka in the east.
  • Russian forces are likely reinforcing the frontline in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
  • The Russian military continues to face problems equipping individual Russian soldiers with basic personal equipment.
  • Russian and occupation administration officials continue to employ coercive measures against residents in Russian-occupied territories.

In a phone call Thursday with Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Ukrainian Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine called the battlefield situation “complicated but controlled.”

Before we head into more of the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

Things continue to go badly for the Russian troops recently called up in what Russia calls a “partial mobilization” of some 300,000 men as Ukraine continues to regain lost territory. The BBC is reporting that mobilized reservists “speak about their command in such a way that it cannot be quoted, they claim that they have never even been to the firing range, and they had to dig in on the front line with bayonet-knives.”

According to some claims, those mobilized reservists, who the Ukrainians derisively refer to as “mobiks” really hate their commanders. Reports are emerging that some of those green troops near Kherson killed their commanding officer who prevented them from surrendering. The War Zone could not verify that claim.

But some of those troops didn’t need to kill their commander, because they apparently managed a successful surrender after just a short time on the battlefield.

The lack of supplies and training provided to these troops is not playing well with Putin’s mouthpieces in the Russian media.

In Crimea, meanwhile, Russian logistics are still FUBAR in the wake of Saturday’s attack on the Kerch Bridge, Vladimir Putin’s prized span linking Russia with the occupied peninsula. Truck drivers, not allowed to cross the damaged bridge, have to wait days to cross by ferry.

Explosions were reported at an ammo dump in Belgorod, Russia, the latest incident of things blowing up in that district near the Ukrainian border.

According to Ukrainian Pravda, Russian mass media reported the sounds of explosions in Belgorod, as well as a fire on the territory of a sugar factory in the village of Oktyabrske. 

The Strategic Committee of the Armed Forces claims that it detonated a warehouse with ammunition, Ukrainian Pravda reported. 

The governor of the Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, confirmed that an ammunition warehouse was blown up. He claims that this happened as a result of shelling by the Armed Forces. According to him, there are no victims or injured.”

We can’t verify what happened at the moment, but we have reported in the past about Ukrainian strikes there.

And the mystery behind those previous attacks in Belgorod, as well as on the Kerch Bridge may have been solved, thanks to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who apparently admitted Ukraine was behind both of those attacks while being spoofed by a couple of Russian pranksters pretending to be a former U.S. ambassador.

This latest incident comes a day after a building there was damaged in the wake of the launch of Russian air defenses.

The Russians claimed it was an attack, however, Ukrainian sources provided video appearing to show that the damage was caused instead by Russian air defense fratricide.

There are concerns that Ukraine’s neighbor to the north, the Russian client state of Belarus, could launch an attack in an effort to either advance toward Kyiv or east to relieve Russian troops pinned down there.

Back in the early days of the war, the world’s largest cargo jet, the An-225 affectionately called Mriya, was destroyed, something we wrote about when we interviewed the plane’s first pilot. Now Ukrainian officials are investigating whether employees of Ukraine’s Antonov company, which made the six-engine jet, were involved in its destruction at the Hostomel airport.

While Mriya will never be recovered, Ukraine continues to recover Russian tanks and other military equipment it is putting to good use. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense (MOD) says the latest such trophy is one of Russia’s more modern T-90A tanks. Which is now in service of the Ukrainian Army. There have been others captured, as well.

Ukraine also recovered a Russian 2S3 Akatisya 152mm self-propelled gun that was apparently abandoned by the Russians in the Kherson Oblast.

But Ukraine is losing weapons as well, like an Su-24MR Fencer tactical reconnaissance jet, that crashed somewhere in Poltava Oblast, the Ukraine Weapons Tracker OSINT group reports.

That crash comes after a report, posted today to the Facebook account of the Ukrainian Air Force, claims that a Ukrainian MiG-29 Fulcrum pilot shot down five Shahed-136s and two cruise missiles of undisclosed type before being forced to eject from his fighter, for “technical reasons” that are so far unclear. The pilot’s killing streak is said to have come to an end over Vinnytsia yesterday evening, during another mission to destroy enemy drones. While a Fulcrum was lost, the story of the ‘drone ace’ cannot be verified at this time. You can read much more about that in our story here.

But arms continue to pour into Ukraine from countries other than Russia.

The U.K., for instance, has agreed to provide Ukraine with AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) missiles.

That announcement comes on the heels of one earlier this week by the White House that it would expedite the delivery of two of eight promised National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) to Ukraine. The fact that NASAMS’ primary armament is the AMRAAM used by fighter jets for air-to-air combat is a great advantage to Ukraine because there are thousands available in NATO stocks alone. You can read much more about that here.

And the Iberian peninsula weighed in too, with Portugal agreeing to provide Ukraine with six Ka-32A11BC helicopters and Spain pledging MIM-23 HAWK Phase III surface-to-air missiles as well as possibly other systems. France is also now donating more robust air defense systems. We covered this news today here.

And more military aid will likely be flowing into Ukraine from the European Union, according to Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Borrell is the same guy who warned Russia its forces would be “annihilated” by the West if Putin uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

France, however, may not be part of that response. French President Emmanuel Macron is taking heat for comments he made during an interview with French TV channel France 2, that Paris would “evidently” not use nuclear weapons in response to a Russian nuclear attack on Ukraine, Politico reported.

Russian missile and drone attacks concern the rest of Europe as well. Thursday, 14 NATO nations and Finland agreed to form an air defense alliance called the European Sky Shield Initiative, which you can read much more about here.

This Russian with a stolen civilian vehicle apparently doesn’t understand how explosive reactive armor is supposed to work.

Though yet to provide any arms to Ukraine, Israel is apparently working to help Kyiv battle Russian drones, a large number of which are coming from arch-enemy Iran.

But one of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s top aides cast some shade Israel’s way for the lack of help, without calling out the country by name.

“Iran is sending 2,400 kamikaze drones and IRGC instructors to destroy Ukrainian infrastructure,” Mikhail Podolyak tweeted. “With the money received, Tehran is developing its military industry. Shouldn’t certain countries for whom Iran is an existential threat send their anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine? Until the Iranian drones flew towards them.”

Ukraine’s Maritime Special Operations Center has an innovative training simulator for man-portable air defense system (MANPADS) operators made by Energy-2000.

We will continue to update this story until we state otherwise. 

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Howard Altman Avatar

Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard's work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.