Ukrainian use of Western heavy weapons, particularly rocket artillery, has become a growing problem for Russia’s occupation of Kherson. Along with mounting partisan activities and assassination attempts on key collaborators, the United States intelligence community has assessed that Russia may soon be unable to hold Kherson in the wake of a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
So far, Kherson has remained Russia’s biggest prize, and until recently, its liberation seemed far-fetched. Ukrainian counteroffensives northwest of Kherson met limited success and failed to significantly undermine Russia’s control of the region.
However, Western heavy weapons being delivered to Ukraine have begun having a significant effect on Russian forces. Just recently, Russian forces were forced to retreat from Snake Island due to heavy weaponry. Though TB2 strikes and Ukrainian attack aircraft had previously targeted the island, the likely use of American HIMARS and harpoon missiles forced a speedy Russian withdrawal at the cost of thousands in abandoned equipment.
Russia attempted to launch an air strike to prevent the equipment from falling into Ukrainian hands, but footage of the attack indicates limited success in targeting the island.
These Western weapons, already in Ukraine, could quickly be moved east ahead of an anticipated offensive in Kherson, which Ukraine has frequently referenced in the past week. Citizens were warned to flee from both Mykolaiv and Kherson; the latter told to take any route possible, even if it meant entering Russia through Crimea.
Though the battle of the Donbas will likely continue to go poorly for Ukraine in the short term, Russia’s fixation on successes there weaken its positions near Kherson, whose liberation would provide a far smaller frontline and isolate Crimea.
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