Since the beginning of October, Russian troops have been digging massive trench systems behind the Dnieper in the eastern part of the Kherson region. It was a clear preparation for the withdrawal from Kherson and the entire territory on the west bank of the Dnieper. And the building continues.
Given the depth to which the trench systems are dug and how far they are from the riverbank, it is clear that the Russians are counting on the possibility that the Ukrainians will cross the Dnieper, which the occupiers will not be able to prevent, ISW said.
He added, however, that his analysis of satellite images does not resolve the question of whether the Ukrainians in this area intend to cross the Dnieper and if they have the strength to do so.
The Russians are strengthening their defensive positions along the key lines of communication in the east of the Kherson region, which connect the positions of the occupying forces on the east bank of the Dnieper with the southeastern part of the Kherson region, Crimea and the areas around Melitopol of Zaporozhye.
Satellite images show that the Russians favor digging trenches and deploying anti-tank barriers, the so-called dragon’s teeth, which are made of concrete and so close together that armor cannot pass between them.
The Ukrainians attacked on the left bank of the Dnieper
Defense of the Dnieper and Bug mouths
At the same time, the Russians are massively fortifying a three kilometer wide strip of land separating the Kinburn Spit from the south of the Kherson region on the beaches of the Kinburn Spit.
Kosa is strategically important, because from it the mouths of the Dnieper and Bug rivers can be controlled, and therefore all traffic in the port of Mykolaiv. The Ukrainians are shelling this area and have apparently made several raids there.
“Russian defense positions indicate that the Russian military leadership sees the continuation of the Ukrainian counteroffensive across the Dnieper River as a serious threat,” ISW concluded.
The positions of Russian fortifications at Kinburn Spit indicate that Russian forces do not expect to hold positions on the spit. According to ISW, they apparently assume that the Ukrainians will manage to control it, and want to prevent them from further advancing to the southeast of the Kherson region.
The Russian generals are apparently afraid of the possibility that the Ukrainians could not only use the Kinburn scythe as a springboard for further progress.
Several rows of Russian defensive positions show that the Russians also count on the option that their first line will be breached and they will retreat behind the next.
Defense of roads, not entire fronts
ISW points out that defensive positions east of the Dnieper are built to prevent Ukrainians from advancing along or over lines of communication, but not in open terrain.
The Ukrainians mostly advanced through terrain like in the east of the Kherson region, where they broke through the Russian defensive lines near Balaklia, which enabled them to surround and occupy the Russian strongholds of Izjum and Kupyansk.
We are redeploying troops, Moscow claims about the withdrawal of Russian forces from Balaklia and Izjum
Analysts directly write that most of the Russian field fortifications in the east of the Kherson region are optimized “for defense against advances along roads and could be very vulnerable in bypasses through open terrain.” “Most of these positions have open flanks ending in the middle of the fields,” ISW said.
He added that many don’t even extend far from the road, mostly just far enough to allow the road to be covered by fire from both sides. Additionally, the posts are not close enough to support each other with fire. Even the dragon’s teeth do not extend far enough from the roads into the fields to prevent Ukrainian motorized units from encircling the posts.
Apparently, the Russians are counting on the fact that the current “breakdown” in Ukraine, when the soil is soft after the autumn rains, will not allow the Ukrainians to move easily off the roads. In winter, however, the ground freezes. And even after the spring thaw, it hardens again.
Underestimating the dangers of a major bypass
In addition, the defensive lines are only in the south of the Kherson region and do not reach as far as the Kachovské dam. If the Ukrainian troops were to cross the Dnieper at Nová Kakhovka and turn south from the bridgehead, the Russians would be in danger of being attacked in the rear and encircled.
ISW points out that this is a mistake from a strategic point of view. Even eliminating one of the two main land routes to Crimea would significantly limit the logistical support of units on the peninsula and not far from the banks of the Dnieper.
Russian forces would probably try to delay (slow down) the Ukrainian offensive on the left bank of the Dnieper, and not stop it immediately. They would be waiting for reinforcements. According to ISW, the Russians deploy poorly trained and armed mobilized reserves in the first line, while more professional units remain in the second and third lines.
The Kremlin is preparing a second wave of mobilization, writes ISW. At the same time, Putin talked about the end
The war in Ukraine