Ukraine Situation Report: Southern Counterattack Against Russian Forces Underway

Amongst the combat on multiple fronts, Ukraine claims that one of its MiG-29s shot down a Russian Su-35.

byStetson Payne|
DONBASS, UKRAINE - MAY 25: Two soldiers walk in front of a Russian missile fire in Donbass, Ukraine, 25 May 2022. (Photo by Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
DONBASS, UKRAINE – MAY 25: Two soldiers walk in front of a Russian missile fire in Donbass, Ukraine, 25 May 2022. (Photo by Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images).


The Ukrainian Armed Forces have reportedly begun a counterattack northeast of Kherson in an attempt to undercut Russia’s Southern Group of Forces.

Frontlines between Mykolaiv and Kherson in southern Ukraine have remained relatively stable for weeks despite heavy bombardment and airstrikes by both sides. Saturday’s new offensive reportedly put Ukrainian forces across the Inhulets River near Bilohirka, a village about 30-40 miles northeast of Kherson.

A breakout from here could conceivably threaten Russian-held crossings over the lower Dnieper River at the Nova Kakhovka dam and the Antonovskiy Bridge on Kherson’s east side. 

The Ukrainian Air Force claimed that amid the operation, a Ukrainian MiG-29 shot down a Russian Su-35S while providing fighter escort for a pair of Ukrainian Su-25s hitting targets in Kherson Oblast. 

Air-to-air kill claims have been rare, and verification on these rarer still, since fighting began February 24. However, there are reportedly images and video circulating on Telegram showing a burning Su-35S being shot down during operations over southern Ukraine. 

The Su-35S has far superior beyond-visual-range capabilities to Ukraine’s MiG-29s and it also is superior in a dogfight. In fact, the Su-35 is the most maneuverable operational fighter on earth at slow speeds thanks to its 3D thrust vectoring. Technological and performance advantages are just two aspects of air-to-air combat though. Every scenario is different, with situational awareness, supporting sensor capabilities, pilot expertise, terrain, atmospheric conditions, and luck all playing into the equation, among other factors.

A Ukrainian Air Force MiG-29 was photographed in early May over nearby Odesa Oblast carrying both missile types and a center-pylon fuel tank. You can read a first-hand account of MiG-29 operations over Ukraine since the war began here.

It’s not fully clear how or even if the engagement occurred as claimed, but a 40-year-old Cold War design getting a kill against Russia’s most modern multi-role fighter in widespread use has to sting if true. Apart from the age gap, it would be the clearest example to date of Russia’s continued lack of air superiority in Ukrainian skies. 

A separate tweet on Saturday reportedly showed a Ukrainian MiG-29 on full afterburner at near treetop height before going vertical, but it’s unclear whether it’s related to the Ukrainian Air Force shootdown claim. 

Before diving into the latest news from the war in Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get up to speed with our previous rolling coverage here

The Latest

The British Ministry of Defense’s most recent assessment reported Russian forces have likely captured the town of Lyman, a major railway junction with crossings over the Donets River. 

Continued Russian advances will set the stage for another attempt at crossing the river, though previous efforts have been disastrous for the Russian Army as we wrote about here

Cleanup in war-torn areas north of Kyiv after the Russians abandoned that front in late March continue, with crews now dragging away the charred remains of the An-225 Mirya at Hostomel Airport. 

A vicious battle for the airport played out over the first weeks of the war, leaving most of it and the aircraft parked there in ruins, including the legendary An-225. 

Efforts to build a new Mirya are still in the early stages, but if you listen to the An-225’s first pilot, Oleksandr Halunenko, no new plane will be the same as the one he helped design 40 years ago. 

Speaking of exceedingly rare Ukrainian equipment, we have a picture of a Ukrainian T-84 tank fighting on the eastern front today, one of only a handful in service.

A further development of the Soviet T-80, the Ukrainian T-84 is built upon the diesel-engined T-80UD and is one of the fastest tanks in the world with speeds over 40 miles per hour. This particular tank appears to be a T-84M Oplot-M variant, a graduation of the original T-84 Oplot, with a welded turret, separate crew and ammunition compartments, advanced armor, electronic countermeasures and other upgrades. 

It should come as no surprise that Ukraine’s armed forces are using these tanks even in their small numbers as the country mobilizes against the Russian invasion. 

One of the recently donated Australian Bushmaster MRAPs met its end on the Donetsk Oblast frontline, the type’s first confirmed loss. 

There’s also pretty intense first-person footage from Ukrainian troops on the eastern front. The clip, music notwithstanding, is a pretty loud account of combat in the Donbas, and it really seems to drive home how a lot of the fighting is on frighteningly open ground in fields and rolling hills. 

Perhaps the strangest update Saturday came in Lithuania, where the country’s mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe managed to fundraise five million euros in barely three days toward buying the Ukrainian Armed Forces a TB-2 Bayraktar drone.

We’ve seen earlier efforts at crowdfunding fighter jets for the Ukrainian Air Force, but the fact they raised that much money in such little time is nothing short of remarkable. The world has certainly come a long way since WWII-era war bond drives.

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