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An offensive that must not be named: The AFU battling their way to Kherson

On the night of Monday, August 29, Ukraine launched a counteroffensive that some military analysts have interpreted as the most decisive response to the Russian invasion since the beginning of the war. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense and the Presidential Office have refrained from comment so far. The South Operative Command announced the beginning of the AFU’s offensive, but sources in Ukrainian security agencies argued that the announcement had been hasty and the counteroffensive had not in fact begun. Meanwhile, Ukrainian military experts, who are normally forthcoming in their comments on combat activity, are reluctant to talk to the press.

The first strikes were launched on the night of August 29 on Russian facilities in Kherson, including a munitions warehouse in a Ukrainian penal colony, followed by more strikes on Nova Kakhovka, the community of Oleshky, and the Antonivka Road Bridge. On Tuesday afternoon, the shelling of these targets continued, with the addition of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Dam.

The AFU's strike on Antonivka Road Bridge

Four communities on the Kherson front have been liberated; available data suggest the first line of Russian defense has been breached. At first, Russia denied the breach but then admitted that Ukrainian troops had begun offensive activities in the Kherson and the Mykolaiv regions.

Judging by the reports of Russian and Ukrainian army representatives and military correspondents, the Ukrainian counteroffensive is unfolding in three directions. The first front is in the west of the Kherson Region, where CNN has reported the liberation of Pravdyne, Nova Dmytrivka, Arkhanhelske, and Tomyna Balka. The data of Ukraine Battle Map also suggest the Ukrainians have retaken Oleksandrivka. The operation began on the night of August 29 with a massive shelling of the Russian positions on the right bank of the Dnieper. One of Ukraine's objectives in the counteroffensive is to encircle a large group of Russian troops in the area.

The information provided to The Insider's correspondent by his sources in the Ukrainian military further confirms CNN’s reports: AFU troops have started advancing along the line Kisomys – Nova Dmytrivka – Tomyna Balka. On the Mykolaiv front, Russians are trying to regain their footing in the settlement of Blahodatne.

“The attack was centered on Pravdyne. We rained fire on the ‘DPR’ and ‘LPR’ infantry, causing them to flee. Russian paratroopers followed suit. The first line of defense was breached in three points. Many [enemy soldiers] were killed or captured, and a lot of weapons and vehicles were destroyed. Let’s see where it gets us. Our goal is Kherson,” a source told CNN. According to the pro-Russian Telegram channel Chto Tam U DagestansteV, AFU troops attacked the Special Unit of the Russian Guard for the Republic of Dagestan, leaving at least five dead and three times as many wounded.

As the pro-Russian military correspondent Roman Saponkov reports, the Ukrainian Army launched an attack outside Davydiv Brid and liberated the community of Sukhyi Stavok. He boasts, however, that “Russians respond to every [Ukrainian] shell with a dozen of theirs”. The infantry's morale is high, but separatists and fighters mobilized in the Donbas republics are fleeing from the battlefield, admits Saponkov.

The second front is the direction of Mykolaiv, with resumed combat activities in the vicinity of Posad-Pokrovske and Luparevo in the west of Kherson Region, Snihurivka in the west of Mykolaiv Region, and the vicinity of Davydiv Brid and Vysokopillia in the north of Kherson Region. Considering the damaged bridges, Russian troops will not be able to retreat with their weapons and vehicles, as Ukrainian military expert Oleh Zhdanov points out in conversation with The Insider.

Russia's battle map of the north-west of the Kherson Region
Russia's battle map of the north-west of the Kherson Region

The third front of the offensive is the north of the Kherson Region, where the AFU is advancing from Andriivka, Davydiv Brid, Vysokopillia, and the Inhulets River. The AFU’s successes near Andriivka have been reported by the pro-Russian channels Rybar and Grey Zone, with the latter allegedly connected to the Wagner PMC.

Battles near the Inhulets base of operations and near Snihurivka, as well as a direct offensive toward Kherson, are visible on NASA Firms satellite images of fires. Igor Girkin (Strelkov), former Donbas warlord, reports (without specifying the source) that the AFU have started using HIMARS against infantry, and not only military facilities in the rear, such as munitions warehouses and command points.

The offensive may have been facilitated by the AFU receiving an efficient tool for suppressing Russian air defense: AGM-88 HARM missiles for the MiG-29 aircraft. However, as Air Force colonel Viktor Alksnis remarked to The Insider, he doubts the compatibility of MiGs with American missiles:

“For a plane to use munitions that were not envisaged at the design stage, it takes more than attaching a missile to the plane. Specific equipment must be installed. The Soviet edition of the MiG-29 included special equipment even for Soviet missiles. Launching a rocket requires firmly attaching it to the plane. American missiles like AGM-88 need specific weapon stations. You can't install them in two weeks. Apart from mechanical work and welding, the installation process requires a profound design effort to make all the necessary measurements and calculations. I highly doubt that Ukraine has the specialists capable of such an effort.”
Ukrainian pilot demonstrates the performance of MiG fighter jet

Meanwhile, Ukrainian media are already posting videos of MiGs firing American missiles. The planes on videos could be Polish or with Polish weapons stations installed: the Polish government has repeatedly announced its intention to modernize its MiGs for use with American missiles and supply them to Ukraine. Poland expected to adapt the jets to carry AIM-120 AMRAAM, American medium-range air-to-air missiles with radar guidance, install a new tail warning system, and implement a new helmet-mounted target designator sight. In 2015, it reported the modernization of 13 single-seat MiG-29 planes and three dual-cockpit MiG-29UB aircraft.

The modernization included installing a new mission computer, a navigation system, a missile and munitions control unit, a revamped GPS, and new multi-purpose displays.

Furthermore, the Russian Ministry of Defense reported a fire in an “abandoned facility” south of Sevastopol on August 29. OSINTtechnical, an anonymous OSINT analyst on Twitter, said it was a Russian radar unit. According to the analyst, Cape Fiolent in Crimea holds at least one 55Zh6U Nebo-U radar system and a 48Ya6-K1 Podlet all-purpose mobile radar unit, most likely attached to the nearby S-400 air-defense missile battery.

AFU convoy in the Kherson Region

Even though many experts, including those interviewed by The Insider, interpret the Ukrainian counteroffensive as a major development, others tend to be more skeptical. Thus, the Russian military observer Ilya Kramnik does not believe in the AFU's offensive potential, as he argued on his Telegram channel.

“What we should not expect, however, is an in-depth offensive with major goals. It's not only about firepower, although it is always a factor. It is more about the quality of command. What we have seen in the six months, including when it comes to coordinating large armored formations, makes one doubt the feasibility of such plans in the absence of drastic changes across multiple aspects, from logistics to the matters of orchestrating large joint force groupings on the battlefield. Most likely, offensive operations will continue to unfold in the usual format: a measured progression of battalion groups following the advancement of the artillery firing positions. With this assumption in mind, the most far-sighted commanders began preparing for winter as early as in June. Now even the most careless ones have gotten down to it.”

In the meantime, the Russian Armed Forces are reporting progress in its “special operation”, publishing unrealistic figures of enemy losses. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the Russian troops have “smothered the Ukrainian offensive”, eliminating over 1,200 troops, 48 tanks, 46 armored infantry vehicles, 37 armored vehicles of miscellaneous types, and eight pickup trucks with large-caliber machine guns – all within 24 hours. Pro-Russian Telegram channels are also broadcasting videos of “destroyed Ukrainian military convoys”, although these videos only show individual losses.

A bombed-out Ukrainian convoy

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