The Ukrainian oblast of Kherson was illegally annexed by Moscow in September 2022 – but a flurry of military activity in the region is causing a stir as Kyiv fights to retrieve the land.
Last weekend, Russia shelled Kherson alone more than 200 times, according to the regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy also confirmed that these attacks had disrupted the region’s electricity and water supply.
But Ukrainian forces are now said to be crossing the region’s part of the Dnipro river – where one bank is controlled by Ukraine, the other by Russia – according to a prominent Russian military blogger named as “Rybar” by Sky News.
In its most recent update, the think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) explained that these worries are becoming more widespread.
It said: “Russian sources expressed pronounced concern about ongoing Ukrainian activity on the east bank of Kherson Oblast and framed these activities as part of a potential larger Ukrainian operation.”
Ukraine has previously struggled to reclaim any of this area.
Rybar claimed on Tuesday night that Ukrainian formations near the destroyed Antonisky bridge had moved forwards, and occupied a village.
Increasing its presence on the other side of the river would enable Kyiv to send troops, tanks and artillery across, and apply more pressure to the Russian forces on that long frontline.
The Russian ministry of defence has acknowledged Ukrainian operations too, according to ISW, claiming they stopped four Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance groups near Kherson City.
ISW also reported: “The milblogger reacted to the reported [Ukrainian] assault on the night of October 17 to 18 by accusing the Russian MoD of not taking the threat of a Ukrainian crossing seriously.”
In another indication that Ukraine’s progress in Kherson is troubling Moscow, the Russian president Vladimir Putin recently described Ukrainian activity in Kherson as the “next counteroffensive”.
But, as ISW noted, the Russian president has also “continued his typical rhetorical line by painting all Ukrainian offensive operations as a failure”.
The think tank has a policy of not forecasting Ukrainian actions though, so it did not speculate over the possibility that Kyiv will launch an offensive over the Dnipro river any time soon.
Still, ISW added: “It is noteworthy that prominent and generally reliable Russian sources are discussing Ukrainian activities on the east bank as occurring at a larger scale than previously documented.”