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A Ukrainian serviceman gestures next to a 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzer before firing toward Russian troops, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, at a position on a front line in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine November 15, 2023


Ukrainian troops fight for key bridgehead over the Dnipro

Ukrainian troops have crossed the vast Dnipro River and established a bridgehead on the eastern shore, a significant breakthrough after months of agonizingly slow progress in Kyiv’s counteroffensive. If they can hold – and it’s a big “if,” as a Russian regional official says “a fiery hell has been arranged” for Ukrainian troops – the largest geographic barrier on the road to Crimea will be at their backs.

The lay of the land: The Dnipro is the longest river in Europe, and flows in a gentle north-south curve along the entire length of Ukraine. It empties into the Black Sea just southwest of Kherson, which Ukrainian troops liberated a year ago, and controls access thence to the Crimean peninsula, a major symbolic and strategic objective for Kyiv.

Ukrainian troops appear to have secured control over a strip of riverfront between Kherson and the strategic village of Krynky about 24 miles east-northeast. Porting the heavy equipment they’ll need to keep up the attack across the Dnipro is challenging, with most of the bridges in the region long-since destroyed, but a temporary bridge near Krynky, where the Dnipro is narrowest, could change the equation.

Don’t expect a rapid breakthrough: Even if Ukrainian troops do manage to bring over the armor and weapons they need to advance, Russia has multiple lines of prepared defenses to fall back upon. There are no easy countermeasures to the minefields and long-range strikes that have stymied Ukrainian progress since the summer. That said, successfully pulling off one of the toughest maneuvers in modern warfare could represent a morale victory, challenging notions that the conflict has ossified into a “stalemate,” as Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhniy put it recently.

Ukrainian servicemen fire a multiple launch rocket system toward Russian troops near a front line in Zaporizhzhia region.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty/Serhii Nuzhnenko via REUTERS

Is Ukraine picking up the pace?

As we wrote three weeks ago, the single most important (realistic) objective of Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive against Russian invaders is to persuade backers in Europe and the United States that Ukraine can make good use of more weapons, training, and money to finally win the war. The immediate hope shared in Kyiv, Washington, and European capitals is that in the coming months, Ukrainian forces can drive a wedge to the country’s southern coast, separating Russian forces in Crimea from those in the eastern Donbas region.

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Tributes are left at the site where an apartment block was heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike in Dnipro, Ukraine.

REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

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Russia strikes civilians, braces for long war in Ukraine

At least 40 people died in Saturday's Russian missile strike on an apartment building in Dnipro, Ukraine's fourth-largest city, authorities said Monday. It was one of Russia's deadliest attacks against Ukrainian civilians since the invasion began, as Moscow doubles down on the strategy of targeting civilians to turn the tide of the war in its favor. Meanwhile, the Washington, DC-based Institute for the Study of War on Sunday claimed that the Kremlin is preparing for a drawn-out conflict and a fresh mobilization to push back against Ukraine's military gains in recent months. What does that mean for Kyiv? That the US and its NATO allies will need to stay the course on providing weapons to keep the Russians at bay. Clearly on message, the UK on Friday announced that it would for the first time send Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine. This might open up a can of worms within NATO: Poland wants to supply the Ukrainians with German-made Leopard tanks but has yet to get the green light from Berlin, while the US, Germany, and France have so far only agreed to give Ukraine light armored vehicles. If they all go a step further and send in the heavy equipment, Vladimir Putin will know that Ukraine's friends remain committed to its defense and are less worried about Russia escalating.

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