Kiev and its allies have high hopes for an upcoming spring offensive. It is intended to effect a breakthrough on the Eastern Front and enable far-reaching regional victories so that Russia cannot negotiate without assistance.
But these ambitions are now being thwarted by the realities of war. European munitions supplies have stagnated, heavy weapons deliveries are difficult anyway, and now even Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov admits that expectations of a planned attack are “definitely overblown.”
Recently, the American think tank “Institute for War StudiesSpecializing in Military Analysis (ISW) reported that Ukrainian troops advanced on the left bank of the strategically important city of Kherson. ISW refers to Russian military bloggers, the information cannot be independently verified.
If the Ukrainian push is valid, it could become a building block for freeing the city in the south of the country from ongoing Russian bombing.
But consolidating Ukrainian positions around Kherson would help the army target an even more important military target: Moscow’s supply lines from Crimea to mainland southern Ukraine.
The railway is the “liveland” of the Russian army
“The rail link from Donbass to Crimea is the only reasonably well-functioning logistical link to Russia in southern Ukraine,” says Christian Molling, a security expert and deputy director of the German Society for Foreign Relations. “..
If one manages to intercept this supply route, Moscow will face major military problems, he continues. “Then the Russian troops will be exhausted.” The railway runs from Russia to mainland Crimea in two strands via the Kerch Bridge. One of them goes further to Kherson, the other – in the direction of Militopol, and then to Donbass.
Simon Weiss, a conservation expert at the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, shares this analysis. The focus is on the Crimean Bridge, which connects the Russian province of Krasnodar to the peninsula via the Kerch Strait.
“Railways enable rapid transport of military supplies to the north of Crimea and thus closer to the front,” says Simon Weiss. Rail is a very important mode of transport for Russia, especially for bulky deliveries. Kiev knows it too.
The Crimean Bridge was destroyed and rebuilt
On October 8, the day after Vladimir Putin’s 70th birthday, a bomb partially destroyed a bridge in Ukraine. However, Russia managed to partially repair its damage. But with the spring offensive, the opportunity now arose to make the junction a target for attack again.
According to Christian Molling, achieving a breakthrough is relatively easy. For this, “a certain number of rocket artillery” should be installed in Ukraine.
With this, Ukraine can increase the range of shelling to destroy the rail link with the help of missiles. “Politically, it would be disastrous for Russia,” the defense expert summarizes.
Moling believes that Kiev will put itself in a good negotiating position with Moscow if Ukraine succeeds in recapturing territory in the south with the help of a cut supply route.
Wilfried Jilge, Mölling’s DGAP colleague and historian of Eastern Europe, confirms that all eyes are rightly on the Ukrainian littoral. Russia needs the southern coast to expand its dominance – economically and imperially – in the Black Sea.
Victories in the south and the recapture of ports on the Sea of Azov are crucial: “for Ukraine, but also in the fundamental interest of security of its Western allies,” Zilj said.
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