Recapturing the Crimean peninsula: – A defensive case

In recent days, Ukraine’s defense has reported advances on a small peninsula south of the much-discussed river Dnipro. The commander of the military in Mykolaiv, Vitalij Kim, says on Telegram that they lack three towns on the peninsula before the entire county is liberated.

The Kinburn Peninsula juts out into the Black Sea, forming on the north side the Dnibro Bay, through which ships must pass to reach the important port cities of Mykolajiv and Kherson.

– The occupying powers on the Crimean peninsula are showing increased unrest. Probably in connection with Ukrainian attacks against Russian targets there, and the ongoing military operation on the Kinburn isthmus, writes the American think tank Institute for The Study of War (ISW) in its daily analysis on Wednesday.

It is at the very end of the thinnest isthmus of the peninsula that the Ukrainian forces are said to have disembarked. Parts of Kinburn belong to Mykolajiv county, while the eastern part belongs to Kherson.

Base for Russian artillery

– In short, this is a very thin intestine that protrudes from the Crimean peninsula. As far as I know, these operations are to deny the Russians the opportunity to fire artillery over to the other side of the Dnipro, says lieutenant general and former chief of the defense staff, Arne Bård Dalhaug, to TV 2.

That makes the small isthmus strategically important: throughout the war, Russia has stationed forces with artillery on the Kinburn peninsula.

Russia may thus have been firing missiles from the small strip of land at Ukrainian targets ever since they invaded Ukraine on 24 February.

– This is thus a defensive matter from the Ukrainian side, to prevent the Russians from deploying missiles there. Then they can shoot Kherson and Mykolajiv. Odesa is a bit too far away, he explains.

He describes the Ukrainian maneuver to move forces to Kinburn as a special forces operation to try to take control so that the Russians do not prevent boat traffic into the Dnipro Bay.

– Not least from there the Russians can hit the entrance to the port in Mykolajiv, says Dalhaug.

MINE-LAYING: A Ukrainian special forces soldier mounts an anti-tank mine donated by Germany. Here in the Donetsk region on June 14 this year. Photo: Efrem Lukatsky

According to The New York Times, in October Russian media showed images of concrete blocks being driven into the peninsula as barricades for the forces they have deployed.

– Seizing the Kinburd isthmus could help Ukrainian forces get further into Russian-occupied territory in Kherson, with significantly less

– Can’t get into Crimea

The special forces that have crossed over to the peninsula are probably limited in number, and the aim is, by all accounts, not to move further into the Crimean peninsula from Kinburn.

– This land mass is very thin. There are swamps and lagoons to a large extent, which is common on the Crimean peninsula, says Lieutenant General Dalhaug.

– It is not possible to imagine getting large forces over. If you land soldiers at the very front, you won’t get into the Crimean peninsula, he continues.

NO SMOKE WITHOUT: Ukrainian soldiers on October 28, after shelling targets near Kherson city.  Two weeks later, Ukraine recaptured the city.  Photo: BULENT KILIC/AFP

NO SMOKE WITHOUT: Ukrainian soldiers on October 28, after shelling targets near Kherson city. Two weeks later, Ukraine recaptured the city. Photo: BULENT KILIC/AFP

East of the Kinburn isthmus, Russia has established a defense line along the south side of the Dnipro River, after they withdrew from the city of Kherson on 9 November. For the answer to where Ukraine will continue its counter-offensive, one must therefore probably look even further east:

– They cannot get across the river where the Russians have such defense lines. If you look at the Russian lines, they go north to a distance north of Kherson, before they let go a little, says Dalhaug.

– It is happening at Zaporizhzhya, and it is likely that at the million city Dnipro you can deploy forces that can cross over. There are many bridges over the river there, he says.

When the Russians withdrew from Kherson earlier this month, Lieutenant Colonel Palle Ydstebø of the War College told TV 2 that he expected Ukraine’s offensive to continue:

– I do not expect that the Ukrainians will take a break, but that they will keep the pressure up until Russia secures a place, he said.

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