Ukraine Situation Report: Strategic Russian-Held Bridge Out Of Action From HIMARS Strike

A strategic bridge within Russian-held territory in Ukraine has been put out of action, according to reports. Based on statements from both Ukrainian and Russian authorities, Antonivskyi bridge, which spans the Dnipro river, near the city of Kherson, came under fire from U.S.-supplied M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, overnight. This is the latest high-profile action for which this weapon system has been connected. The importance of the Antonivskyi bridge lies in it being the only bridge over the Dnipro in the city of Kherson. As such, it provides a key means of keeping supplies — and especially heavy weaponry — flowing to Russian forces occupying the south of the country.

A roughly one-minute clip published on Telegram by the Ukrainian Armed Forces claims to show the guided rocket fire directed against the bridge, shortly after 1:00 AM this morning.

“HIMARS dealt another powerful blow to one of the two bridges, which are used by the invaders for a massive transfer of troops,” senior presidential adviser Anton Gerashchenko said, citing the Ukrainian Armed Forces. “Let’s hope that this time the Antonivskiy bridge will not withstand the power of the HIMARS missile attack.”

The Russian-installed administration in Kherson admitted that the Antonivskyi bridge had been closed to civilian traffic after the strike. However, Kirill Stremousov, the administration’s deputy head told the Russian Interfax agency that the bridge’s structural integrity had not been affected.

“Traffic on the bridge is blocked,” Stremousov said on his Telegram channel. “Indeed, another HIMARS strike was launched during the night.” Stremousov later added that Ukraine used various artillery systems and that the number of projectiles hitting the bridge “exceeded 10.”

However, videos that purport to show the approximately 0.9-mile-long bridge reveal several large holes punched through it and suggest that, at the very least, significant repair work will now be required. Some Russian media sources also suggest the bridge will require “extensive repairs”.

Based on video and witness accounts, up to 18 impacts were made on the bridge, which again raises a question about Russia’s ability to defend against rocket and missile attacks, despite its own extravagant claims of being able to counter HIMARS, in particular.

Stremousov confirmed that: “there are several ferry crossings” now in operation, which also suggests that the damage to the bridge might be more severe than he had admitted.

A spokesperson for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Nataliya Humeniuk confirmed that the bridge had come under attack but also claimed that the strikes had been “intricate,” with the attacks having been planned to not entirely destroy the bridge. “I will note that we appreciate everything that is in our country, even when it is under occupation,” Humeniuk said. That, at least, suggests that Ukraine may plan to bring the bridge back into operation soon, depending on its progress in the current campaign.

The bridge is an especially attractive target for the Ukrainian Armed Forces now, as they are engaged in a counteroffensive with the aim of regaining the Kherson region from Russia.

Ahead of last night’s strike, the bridge had come under repeated attack from Ukrainian forces and had already sustained damage serious enough for it to be closed to trucks, although cars had still been permitted to cross.

It seems that the Antonivskyi bridge was not the only logistical bottleneck to have come under Ukrainian attack in the same region overnight. The Russian TASS news agency also reported today that a railway bridge further upstream on the Dnipro had been hit by missile strikes and was now being repaired.

Another, smaller crossing over the Dnipro in the Kherson region was also attacked last week. This is the dam at the hydroelectric plant in Nova Khakovka, which has apparently remained open to traffic.

The focus of this Ukrainian offensive on Russian military lines of supply in the Kherson region points to the huge significance of winning back territory here. Located just north of the Crimean peninsula that has been held by Russia since 2014, the Kherson region was swiftly taken by Russian troops when the latest invasion began earlier this year.

Since then, there have been Ukrainian counterattacks, but these have had little effect on the overall military balance here. Now, however, with significant portions of the Russian invasion force tied down in the campaign in the eastern Donbas region, it seems Kyiv has taken the opportunity to strike in the south.

Ukrainian artillerymen check their weapons before they go to their duties on the frontline somewhere in the Kherson region, Ukraine, on July 15, 2022. Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

As such, the attack on the Antonivskyi bridge could be a precursor to a renewed offensive in the south. There has been speculation that additional impetus has been provided by the receipt of new long-range weapons, like HIMARS, but the truth is that regaining control of the Kherson region has always been on Kyiv’s agenda. Undoubtedly, however, Ukraine has been making considerable use of further-reaching weaponry to exact a heavy toll on Russian ammunition dumps in rear areas. Over 50 of these have been hit in recent weeks, according to the Ukrainian Minister of Defense, Oleksiy Reznikov.

Ukrainian military officials have now been emboldened to talk of rapid progress by Ukrainian troops in this area leading to a “turning point” in the battle. Sergiy Khlan, an aide to the administrative head of the Kherson region, recently told Ukrainian TV that the region would “definitely be liberated by September.”

That’s a bold prediction and, with so much at stake, Ukraine’s southern counteroffensive could well become a long and drawn-out process. In the meantime, Russia is also reportedly looking for other options to keep its supply lines open. In addition to efforts to repair the Antonivskyi bridge, the Russian Armed Forces are said to have previously used pontoons to span the Inhulets river as well as working to reinstate an airfield in Melitopol.

Before heading into the rest of the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up with our previous rolling coverage here.

The latest:

The latest intelligence update on the Ukraine war from the U.K. Ministry of Defense makes specific note of the role currently played by private military contractors of the Russian Wagner Group. According to the MoD account, Wagner forces “likely succeeded in making tactical advances in the Donbas around the Vuhlehirska Power Plant and the nearby village of Novoluhanske.” Wagner operatives have been identified in conflict zones around the world, including in Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic, and Mali, often fighting on the side of forces aligned with the Russian government and they have long been associated with campaigns in the Donbas.

The same British assessment addresses the current visit to Africa by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov and predicts that he will use that trip “to blame the West for the international food crisis and win the support of African states which have otherwise remained neutral about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

Reports from Germany, so far yet to be substantiated by officials there, suggest that the country may now have approved the production of 100 examples of the Panzerhaubitze 2000, or PzH 2000, a 155mm self-propelled howitzer, for eventual supply to Ukraine. According to a report in Der Spiegel magazine, the coalition government in Berlin has pushed through the transfer, worth around 1.7 billion Euros, in response to continued criticism about the pace of its military assistance to Kyiv. Germany previously agreed to supply ten secondhand PzH 2000s to Ukraine in April 2022 and these began to arrive in-country from June 2022 onwards. The Netherlands, too, has delivered secondhand PzH 2000s, with a total of eight transferred.

While there have clearly been numerous losses of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters on both sides of the conflict, it’s less common that the Ukrainian Armed Forces releases the name of a particular individual killed in a combat-related incident. This appears to be the case for Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack pilot Maj. Oleksandr Kukurba, of the 299th Tactical Aviation Brigade, whose death was announced on July 24. The circumstances of his death are not clear but he had been awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine in April.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities announced that a Russian Ka-52 Hokum attack helicopter was downed yesterday, reportedly the latest victim of friendly fire. The official Ukrainian account states that the rotorcraft was part of a group of three Ka-52s taking part in operations in the Kherson region when it came under attack from an undisclosed Russian ground-based air defense system.

So far unconfirmed reports suggest that the Russian Ministry of Defense has begun a regular “ferry line” connecting the breakaway state known as the Donetsk People’s Republic with Yeysk, a port on the shores of the Sea of Azov. The service is said to make use of vessels belonging to Oboronlogistics, a Russian shipping company.

Plans call for the shipping line to bring cargo, almost certainly including war materiel, to Russian-occupied Mariupol, from where it can be distributed to other areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Reports indicate that, at first, one ferry a day will make the return trip and that it will be able to carry up to 700 tons of cargo, including up to 20 trucks and over 130 passengers.
The Russian Ministry of Defense continues to claim the destruction of multiple rockets associated with the U.S.-supplied HIMARS systems used by Ukraine. According to the latest claims from the Kremlin, its forces destroyed more than 100 HIMARS rockets in just one day, during an engagement near Lyubimovka, Dnepropetrovsk Region, on July 24. This appears to have been the result of a Russian Aerospace Forces airstrike, with the same official Russian account stating that “up to 120 servicemen of the military guarding the site have been eliminated, along with foreign mercenaries and technicians.” Ukraine has previously categorically denied various claims by Russia that it destroyed HIMARS and/or its ammunition.

Yet more examples of the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicle have been purchased by the Comeback Alive Foundation, an organization that exists to crowd-fund materiel to support the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The latest package is said to consist of three combat-capable drones, an identification-friend-foe system, as well as “several dozen guided munitions.” All this is said to have cost $16,502,450.

Following the success of a previous special-edition stamp, which was produced to commemorate the actions of the Ukrainian defenders of Snake Island, who addressed the Russian Navy cruiser Moskva with the words “Russian warship, go fuck yourself,” a new stamp has been produced and will go on sale tomorrow. This one is dedicated to the efforts of Ukrainian agricultural workers and other tractor drivers, whose towing of captured Russian armored vehicles became something of a trademark earlier in the conflict, as you can read about here.

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Thomas Newdick

Staff Writer

Thomas is a defense writer and editor with over 20 years of experience covering military aerospace topics and conflicts. He’s written a number of books, edited many more, and has contributed to many of the world’s leading aviation publications. Before joining The War Zone in 2020, he was the editor of AirForces Monthly.