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Southern Ukraine offensive

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Southern Ukraine offensive
Part of the
2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.svg
A map of the Russian-occupied territory and military advances in Kherson Oblast
Date24 February 2022 – present
(2 months and 4 weeks)
Location
Status

Ongoing

Belligerents
 Russia
 Donetsk PR (Ukrainian claim)[1]
 Luhansk PR (Ukrainian claim)[1]
 Ukraine
Commanders and leaders
Russia Vladimir Putin
Russia Mikhail Mishustin
Russia Valery Gerasimov
Russia Oleg Salyukov
Russia Nikolai Yevmenov
Russia Sergey Dronov [ru]
Russia Andrey Mordvichev (killed per Ukrainian claim)[9]
Russia Yakov Rezantsev (killed per Ukrainian claim)[10]
Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Ukraine Denys Shmyhal
Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi
Ukraine Oleksandr Syrskyi
Ukraine Serhiy Kotenko [11]
Ukraine Vitaliy Nevinsky[12]
Units involved

 Russian Armed Forces

 Ukrainian Armed Forces

Irregular civilian volunteers (militia)

  • Ukrainian guerrillas[19]
Strength
c. 13,000[20] Unknown

The Southern Ukraine offensive is an ongoing theatre of operation in the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. From their base in Russian-occupied Crimea, the armed forces of Russia have attacked the provinces (oblasts) of Kherson Oblast, Mykolaiv Oblast, and Zaporizhzhia Oblast in southern Ukraine.[21] On 24 February, Russian forces engaged the Armed Forces of Ukraine.[22]

All of Kherson Oblast is under Russian control. Prior to 8 March, a Russian detachment had been making its way northwestward along the east bank of the Southern Bug River. However, according to the Institute for the Study of War, it is likely that Ukrainian forces have halted this advance because Russian forces are facing growing supply and morale issues.[23] Elements from the Southern offensive have joined forces with elements from the Eastern Ukraine offensive to jointly surround and bombard the city of Mariupol.

Background

In the aftermath of the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.[24][25] Under de facto rule, Russian troops occupied their self-proclaimed Republic of Crimea for the next eight years. The Russian military presence in the peninsula increased during the 2021–2022 Russo-Ukrainian crisis by over 10,000 additional troops.[26]

Timeline

Russian capture of southern Kherson Oblast

Russian troops cross into Ukraine from Crimea
on 24 February

Shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine, the Russian Air Force began to launch cruise and ballistic missiles at targets within several cities in Kherson Oblast. With air support, Russian Armed Forces then crossed into Kherson Oblast through areas of Crimea previously annexed by Russia in 2014.[27][28][29] The Russian Navy utilized a naval blockade in the Black Sea to limit Ukraine from providing support to units located near Kherson Oblast, as well as restrict commercial trade and the flow of goods to southern Ukraine.[30] By 3:30 AM local time, Ukraine had closed all commercial shipping in the Sea of Azov, leaving more than 100 ships stuck in ports.[31] By evening, the Russians had reached the city of Kherson and engaged the Ukrainians in the Battle of Kherson. The Russians attempted to cross the Dnieper River over the Antonovskiy Bridge. Despite initial crossing by the Russian army, Ukrainian mechanized forces were able to recapture the Bridge.[32]

A Ukrainian battalion was deployed to destroy the Henichesk bridge near the Isthmus of Perekop in order to slow the advance of Russian troops advancing from Crimea.[33] Vitalii Skakun, the combat engineer who planted the explosives on the bridge, did not have enough time to retreat from the bridge, and so detonated the mines, killing himself and destroying the bridge.[34][35] Skakun was posthumously awarded the title Hero of Ukraine by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.[36]

Russian troops advancing from Crimea established control over the North Crimean Canal.[37] Following Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, Ukraine blocked the canal,[38] which provided 85% of Crimea's drinking water.[39] Sergey Aksyonov, the head of the Republic of Crimea, told local authorities to prepare the canal to receive water from the Dnieper and resume the supply of water to Crimea, which was planned for the following day.[40]

By the morning of 25 February, Russian forces had encircled and captured the city of Nova Kakhovka.[41] The North Crimean Canal was also unblocked, effectively rescinding a longstanding water blockage imposed on Crimea after the 2014 Russian annexation of the peninsula.[42][43] Fighting began to spill into Zaporizhzhia Oblast as Russian forces moved through southeastern Kherson Oblast towards Melitopol, which later surrendered to advancing Russian forces after a small skirmish.[44][45] Later in the day, Russian forces fully captured the Antonovskiy Bridge.[46] Ukrainian forces launched a counterattack on Melitopol to take back control of the city.[47]

On 26 February, according to Kherson mayor Ihor Kolykhaiev, a Ukrainian airstrike forced the Russians to retreat from Kherson, leaving the city under Ukrainian control.[48][49] Ukrainian forces later recaptured the bridge.[50] The Ukrainian Prosecutor General, Iryna Venediktova, claimed that Russian forces killed a journalist and an ambulance driver near the village of Zelenivka, a northern suburb of Kherson.[51] Another Ukrainian official later claimed that a Russian army column was defeated between the towns of Radensk and Oleshky, located just south of Kherson.[52] In the afternoon of 26 February, 12 Russian tanks managed to break through in Kakhovka on the Dnieper and began advancing towards Mykolaiv.[53] Vitaliy Kim, the governor of Mykolaiv Oblast, stated that the city had 5 hours to prepare.[54][55] Artillery and other arms had also been prepared.[56]

A Ukrainian official stated that Russian forces had advanced further towards the city of Enerhodar, located southwest of Zaporzhzhia. The city contains the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. The official also stated that the Russians were deploying Grad missiles and warned of an attack on the plant.[57] The Zaporizhzhia Regional State Administration stated that the Russian forces advancing on Enerhodar had later returned to Bolshaya Belozerka, a village located 30 kilometres (19 mi) from the city.[58] Russian forces had later captured the coastal city of by 13:40.[59]

By evening, Russian tanks were on the outskirts of Mykolaiv. Oleksandr Senkevych [uk], the mayor of Mykolaiv, ordered citizens to stay indoors, as far away from windows as possible.[60] Shortly after, Russian troops entered the city and a battle on the Southern Bug erupted about 10 minutes later.[61] According to some reports, tanks "passed through the city".[62] There were also sightings of large fires spreading in the city.[63]

Russian forces advanced from Melitopol towards Mariupol, where a battle had gone on since 25 February. These forces captured the coastal city of Prymorsk and surrounded the city of Berdiansk, west of Mariupol.[64][65] At Berdiansk, Russian troops captured the port and the Berdiansk Airport.[66][67]

Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson Igor Konashenkov announced that the city of Henichesk and Kherson International Airport had surrendered to Russian forces in the morning.[68][69][70] Later, Russian forces encircled and captured a part of Kherson,[71][72] with Ukrainian officials corroborating this claim.[73]

Russian forces were also able to enter and capture Berdiansk.[74][75] During the takeover, local authorities reported that one person was killed and another was wounded.[76][77] At least eight Ukrainian warships were seized in Berdiansk; two Gyurza-M-class artillery boats, two Zhuk-class patrol boats, a Sorum-class tugboat (converted to a patrol vessel[78]) and six small patrol boats. Russia Today did not mention the second Zhuk-class patrol boat or the six small patrol boats, but claimed that among these vessels captured were a Polnocny-class landing ship, a Ondatra-class landing craft, a Grisha-class corvette, a Matka-class missile boat, and a Yevgenya-class minesweeper.[79] Two of the smaller boats were later revealed to be UMS-1000 patrol cutters, three were Kalkan-M boats[80] and one was an Adamant-315 motor yacht.[81]

Later on 27 February, a group of Romani Ukrainian fighters allegedly captured a Russian armoured fighting vehicle near Kakhovka.[82] Ukrainian officials claimed that Russian forces were fully driven away from Mykolaiv.[83] The city was extensively damaged.[84][85][86] Russian forces tried to enter into Dniprorudne during the day, but were forced to turn back after being confronted by protesting locals.[87]

Russian advance into northern Kherson Oblast, eastern Mykolaiv Oblast, and western Zaporizhzhia Oblast

On 28 February, the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that Russian forces had captured Enerhodar, in addition to the surroundings of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. However, Dmitri Orlov, the mayor of Enerhodar, denied that the city and the plant had been captured.[88][89] A video later emerged showing local civilians preventing a Russian convoy from entering Enerhodar by barricading the entrance, forcing them to leave.[90]

Ukrainian officials accused Russian forces of trying to use civilians gathered from villages around Kherson as human shields to cross the bridge into Kherson.[91] Russian troops advanced from Kherson towards Mykolaiv, reaching the city's outskirts and launching an assault at 11:00.[92][93] According to Oleksandr Svidlo, the mayor of Berdiansk, Russian forces left the city leaving a Russian military police detachment in the city.[94] Russian forces continued to advance towards Mariupol.[95] By reaching Mariupol, Russian forces established a land connection linking Crimea and the Donetsk People's Republic.[96]

Elsewhere, according to Ukrainian media reports, Russian military saboteurs who were part of sabotage and reconnaissance groups who had previously stolen Ukrainian military uniforms from a military depot, engaged Ukrainian forces in Tokmak, northeast of Melitopol.[97][98][99] According to the Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security, the Russians were identified because they wore bulletproof vests that were used by the Russian army, and not the Ukrainian one.[100][101] Ukraine claimed Russian forces suffered a large number of casualties and retreated to the southern outskirts of the town.[102]

In the early morning of 1 March, Russian forces began assaulting Kherson from the west, advancing from Kherson International Airport towards the highway to Mykolaiv. They were able to surround the city and reached up to the neighboring settlement of Komyshany.[103] Later in the day, Russian forces entered Kherson.[104]

The mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, announced that the Russian forces had occupied the city.[3] A United States Department of Defense official also confirmed that Russian forces had captured the city.[105]

Russian forces also shelled Bashtanka and Mykolaiv. Ukrainian officials later alleged that a large Russian convoy was attacked and defeated by Ukrainian forces during the night near Bashtanka, forcing the Russians to retreat towards the neighboring city of Novyi Buh. They claimed that "several dozen [Russian] armored vehicles" were destroyed in the attack.[106] Kim stated that during the operation, a Ukrainian helicopter was destroyed, but its pilots survived.[107] Ukrainian officials stated that Russian forces had surrounded Enerhodar, with a Russian convoy advancing into the city around 14:00.[108] According to the mayor, the city had difficulties obtaining food.[108]

In the early morning of 2 March, Russian forces seized parts of Kherson, including the city's central square.[109] Later that evening, Kolykhaiev announced that he had surrendered the city to Russian forces, and that the Russian commander planned to set up a military administration in the city.[110] Russian forces also bombarded Voznesensk, which has a bridge that can be used to cross the Southern Bug instead of the one near Mykolaiv, during the morning. Russian paratroopers then landed at a forested ridge need the town, while an armored column approached the town. Forces from the 126th Coastal Defence Brigade were unable to join them as they were attacked while trying to reach there.[111] The Russian troops, estimated to be 400 by Ukrainian officials, then captured the village of Rakove, whose houses it used to create a sniper nest. Afterwards, they set up a base at a gas station near the town's entrance and assaulted the base of the Territorial Defense Forces. Ukrainian forces started striking back at them with artillery at night with the help of local volunteers who gave them coordinates.[111] Meanwhile, Anton Herashchenko, a Ukrainian official, claimed that Russian shelling hit many homes in Mariupol, with four people killed.[112]

In the evening, an unidentified missile struck the MVS Banglar Samriddhi, a Bangladeshi cargo ship which was stranded in port near Olbia in Mykolaiv Oblast since the invasion began, killing a Bangladeshi engineer.[113][114]

Destroyed Russian artillery and vehicles near Mykolaiv
, 3 March 2022

In the early morning of 3 March, Kolykhaiev announced that the city had fallen to Russian forces.[115] Heavy resistance was still raging in the north of Kherson, as well as the city of Mariupol.[116] Mariupol officials allege that hundreds of civilians had been killed by 3 March.[117][118] Meanwhile, Orlov stated that a large Russian convoy had entered Enerhodar.[119] Later, Russian forces took control of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. During the heavy fighting a fire broke out in a training facility outside of the main complex, which was quickly extinguished,[120] though other sections surrounding the plant sustained damage.[121] Initial reports claimed that the radiation levels remained normal during this time and the fire did not damage essential equipment.[122][123] However, firefighters were unable to reach the fire due to the fighting.[124] Local volunteers and Ukrainian soldiers were able to repel Russian troops from Voznesensk during the day, forcing most of them to retreat 40 miles (64 km) to the east and others to flee into nearby forests, with ten of them being captured later. Ukrainian officials stated that Russian forces had lost 30 vehicles in the battle, in addition to around 100 soldiers. Ten civilians were killed in the fighting.[111]

On 4 March, local officials stated that Russian forces had captured some of the outskirts of Mykolaiv. Ukrainian forces recaptured Mykolaiv International Airport, which had been captured by Russian forces earlier.[125] In the morning, after confirming that there were no changes to radiation levels, Russian forces captured Enerhodar and the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.[126][127][128] Ukraine blew up a railway bridge on the border with Transnistria to prevent the 1,400 Russian troops stationed in Moldovan's breakaway territory from crossing into Ukraine.[129]

On 5 March, Orlov stated that Russian forces controlled the perimeter of Enerhodar and the power plant, while the local authorities were allowed to remain in control in the operation of the city.[7] Russian forces briefly entered Huliaipole (which, according to Ukrainian forces, was attacked during the night while facing shelling and airstrikes[130]), but they were pushed back.[131]

On 7 March, the Ukrainian regional military administration of Zaporizhzhia Oblast stated that Russian forces had thus far captured the cities of Berdiansk, Enerhodar, Melitopol, Vasylivka, Tokmak and Polohy in this oblast.[132] The Ukrainian armed forces stated they had sunk Vasily Bykov, which had attacked Snake Island during the day, near Odessa. Videos posted on social media showed the warship being targeted.[133] However, on March 16 the ship was shown entering Sevastopol with no obvious damange.[134] The Ukrainian Air Force struck the military airbase at Kherson International Airport during the day, with Ukrainian officials claiming that more than 30 Russian helicopters were destroyed. Satellite imagery however showed that the number was fewer.[135]

On 9 March, Russian troops entered the town of Skadovsk. According to local residents they entered at 08:45 and stationed themselves in the central square before being driven away by protesters. They then took over a building of the National Police of Ukraine in addition to vandalizing the city council building. The mayor Oleksandr Yakovlev stated that they took away computers from the city council building and had ordered that no political rallies be held.[136] On the next day, Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russia deployed a battalion of the Baltic Fleet's 336th Naval Infantry Brigade toward Mykolayiv. Northwest of Mykolayiv, Russian and Ukrainian forces clashed in Voznesensk. The Institute for the Study of War opined that "Russian forces are likely experiencing difficulty advancing northwest beyond the Inhul River."[137] Heavy shelling hit Mykolaiv during the evening, causing several fires, and Vitaliy Kim reported "active hostilities near Guryivka" to the north of the city.[138] During the battles for Zaparizhzhia, Colonel Serhiy Kotenko Commander of the 9th Separate Motorized Infantry Battalion "Vinnytsa Scythians" was killed.[11]

Stalemate and Ukrainian counter-attacks

On 11 March, Governor Kim stated that Ukrainian forces had pushed Russian troops eastwards by 15–20 kilometres (9.3–12.4 mi) and had also surrounded some units who were negotiating for a surrender.[139] The Ukrainian forces stated that they had destroyed two Russian helicopters in the Skadovsk Raion during the next day and one of the pilots survived.[140] A video was published on social media showing one of the destroyed helicopters.[141] Yakovlev later stated that Skadovsk had been "liberated" from Russian forces as they had left the city on 10 March, but had settled in its outskirts.[142]

The mayor of Dniprorudne, Yevhen Matveyev, was arrested by Russian soldiers according to Starukh. He had previously joined the "living shield" protests against the Russian occupation of the region on 27 February. Russian forces also began imposing their authority in the Kherson Oblast, imposing limitations in Nova Kakhovka, Kakhovka and Tavriisk.[143]

A column of Russian forces re-entered Skadovsk during the afternoon according to its mayor and settled in one of the children's camps in its outskirts.[144]

Mykolaiv Oblast governor Vitaliy Kim later claimed that 200 vehicles of Russian forces were destroyed and surrounded in Melitopol.[145] Anton Heraschenko however afterwards stated that this had occurred near Vasylivka and the Ukrainian forces had destroyed the 200 vehicles of Russian forces stationed near Melitopol using artillery. He added that their headquarters was destroyed as well.[146]

A Russian airstrike on Snihurivka at 06:00 on 14 March killed one civilian and damaged five buildings, according to the State Emergency Service.[147] According to the Mariupol City Council, 2,357 civilians had been killed during the city's siege.[148]

On 15 March, Russian Defense Ministry stated that Russian forces had captured the whole territory of the Kherson Oblast.[149] The Ukrainian Air Force later struck the military airbase at Kherson International Airport again, destroying multiple Russian helicopters.[135]

Gennady Korban, the head of the Staff of Dnipro Oblast's Territorial Defense Forces, stated that the region was prepared for a Russian offensive unlike Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts. He added that Russian forces were staging in the settlements of Velyka Oleksandrivka, Novovorontsovka and Arkhanhelske.[150] Landing ships of the Russian Navy were meanwhile approaching the coast of Odessa in three groups, including the Ivan Gren-class landing ship Pyotr Morgunov.[151] Russian fighter jets and warships attacked settlements of the Odessa Oblast during the day according to Ukrainian officials. Attacks on one of the settlements in the morning wounded two people.[152]

Ukrainian counter-offensive

On 16 March, the Ukrainian government also said that its forces had begun a counteroffensive near Mykolaiv towards Kherson, and claimed that the town of Posad-Pokrovske was captured,[153] Ukrainian control of the town being independently confirmed five days later.[154] Meanwhile, Starukh stated that Russian forces had targeted civilian areas in the city of Zaporizhzhia for the first time, with rockets hitting the Zaporozhye-2 railway station. The city has acted as the first safe port for refugees fleeing Mariupol.[155] Oleksandr Yakovlev, the mayor of Skadovsk, was arrested by Russian soldiers during the day. He however stated a few hours later that they had released him.[156] Melitopol's mayor Ivan Fedorov was meanwhile freed as well. Some Ukrainian officials claimed he was freed in a "special operation".[157][158][159] However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's press aide Darya Zarivnaya later said that he was exchanged for nine Russian conscripts captured by Ukrainian forces.[160]

By 20 March, Russia had completely encircled Mariupol with infantry while demanding a full surrender of the city, to which Zelenskyy voiced direct opposition and refusal.[161] On 24 March, Russian forces entered central Mariupol as part of the second phase of the invasion,[162] seizing the Church of the Intercession of the Mother of God. The City Administration alleged the Russians were trying to demoralize residents by publicly shouting claims of Russian victories, including statements that Odessa had been captured.[163] On 27 March, as Russian forces entered the second phase of their invasion of Ukraine, Ukraine's deputy prime minister, Olha Stefanishyna, stated that Mariupol "simply does not exist anymore," and that Russia's objectives have "nothing to do with humanity." Stefanishyna summarized that: "They (Mariupol's inhabitants) don’t have access to water, to any food supplies, to anything. More than 85 percent of the whole town is destroyed."[164]

By 10 April, Ukrainian forces had made significant advances and pushed back the Russian military in the area around Kherson, gaining ground at Osokorkivka and Oleksandrivka. Russian counter-attacks failed to retake the lost territory, while Ukraine continued to harass local Russian airfields.[165] The Ukrainian counter-offensive had put Russia on the defensive in southern Ukraine, forcing it to focus on fortifying Kherson and improving its air defenses.[166] Guerrillas also began attacking Russian targets in the south, with one group reportedly operating in Melitopol.[19] By 18 April, fighting continued, and Ukraine claimed that its 80th Air Assault Brigade had retaken a number of villages near Mykolaiv.[18] Two days later, Russia counter-attacked and made minor gains at Oleksandrivka.[167]

See also

References

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