Ukrainian forces have taken out a Russian ammunition railway connecting Kherson to Crimea and further blocking Russian supply lines the U.K. Ministry of Defense said Wednesday.
The intelligence update said that Russian forces would likely be able to repair the line that logistically connects occupying forces in the south to more robust supplies on the Crimean Peninsula but noted it will “remain a vulnerability.”
Russia has constructed at least two pontoon ferry crossings capable of transporting civilians, vehicles and supplies to its forces after Ukrainian troops damaged the strategically important Antonovsky Bridge last week using U.S.-supplied HIMARS.
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Fighting in Kherson has intensified in recent weeks as Ukrainian forces make advances to push out Russian troops from what the U.K. defense ministry described as the “most politically significant population center occupied by Russia.”
“It is likely we will see an increase in civilians attempting to flee Kherson and the surrounding area as hostilities continue, and food shortages worsen,” the ministry said Wednesday.
Fleeing civilians will likely increase pressure on Kherson transport routes and force Moscow to impose circulation restrictions, British intelligence suggested.
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On Tuesday, regional authorities said Ukrainian troops had retaken 53 settlements in the region, which has been occupied since early March, as Kyiv pushes forward with a large scale offensive in the south.
Repelling Russian forces from Kherson would be a major win for Ukraine as the region sits as the first line of defense across the Dnieper River and separates western and southern Ukraine from the Crimean Peninsula – which Russia has occupied since 2014.
However, as Ukraine makes advances west of the Dnieper River, forces fighting in the Donbas region north of Crimea continue to endure “hellish” conditions.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the battlefield situation is “just hell” in the Donbas despite U.S.-supplied heavy artillery systems.
“The word ‘HIMARS’ has become almost synonymous with the word ‘justice’ for our country, and the Ukrainian defense forces will do everything to ensure that the occupiers experience more and more painful losses every week thanks to these very effective systems,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Tuesday.
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“We still cannot completely break the advantage of the Russian army in artillery and in manpower, and this is very tangible in the battles, especially in Donbas,” he continued. “It’s just hell there.
“It can’t even be described in words,” he added.
The U.K. defense ministry assess that Russian forces control roughly all the Luhansk region in the northern Donbas, while Donetsk is still fiercely contested with Russia occupying roughly half of the region.