Russian troops in Ukraine’s Kherson region are believed to be highly vulnerable to attack and “virtually cut off” from their other occupied territories after Kyiv’s troops blew up or damaged three key bridges — as US intelligence estimated that half of the Kremlin’s invading force has been obliterated.
More than 75,000 Russian soldiers have been either killed or wounded since the start of the war in Ukraine on Feb. 24, according to US Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who she learned of the latest toll from intelligence officials at a recent briefing.
“We were briefed that over 75,000 Russians have either been killed or wounded, which is huge, you’ve got incredible amounts of investment in their land forces, over 80% of their land forces are bogged down, and they’re tired,” Slotkin, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, told CNN on Wednesday. “But they’re still the Russian military.”
US intelligence officials previously estimated that Russia had sent somewhere between 150,000 and 190,000 troops to fight in Ukraine.
The Russian military last reported its losses in March, when it said 1,351 troops had been killed. In June, a Russian lawmaker boasted to the state media agency RIA Novosti that “we have practically stopped losing people.”
Slotkin said the next three to six weeks could prove decisive for Ukraine.
“I think that what we heard very firmly from President (Volodymyr) Zelensky and reinforced today is that the Ukrainians really want to hit Russia in the teeth a few times before the winter comes, put them in the best position possible, particularly hitting them down south,” Slotkin said.
At the same time, British military intelligence said Ukraine’s counter-offensive in the southern region of Kherson, which borders Russian-annexed Crimea and is under Kremlin’s control at this time, is “gathering momentum.”
Ukraine has used US-supplied long-range HIMARS multiple rocket launchers to badly damage three bridges across the Dnipro River in recent weeks, making it harder for Russia to supply its forces on the western bank.
UK intelligence said the strategy was starting to isolate Russian troops in the Kherson region.
“Russia’s 49th Army, stationed on the west bank of the Dnipro River, now looks highly vulnerable,” the British Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence bulletin on Thursday.
Kherson city was now virtually cut off from the other territories occupied by Russia.
“Its loss would severely undermine Russia’s attempts to paint the occupation as a success,” it said.
A Ukrainian strike on Wednesday on the Antonivskyi bridge, the sole span serving Kherson city, badly damaged it and prompted its closure to traffic. That forced Russia to switch to pontoon bridges and open a ferry service, the route of which it said would constantly change for security reasons, to transport people, vehicles and supplies.
Oleksiy Gromov, a senior member of Ukraine military’s General Staff, told a news briefing on Thursday that the bridge was of great importance for Russia’s defensive effort and for Ukraine’s attempted offensive.
“We have repeatedly struck the Antonivskyi bridge… There is significant damage to the bridge’s structures,” Gromov said.
Two other bridges — the Antonovsky Rail Bridge and Nova Khakokva hydroelectric dam bridge — have also been damaged by Ukrainian airstrikes in recent days.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence confirmed the successful missile strikes on the bridges over the Dnipro, tweeting on Wednesday that they have created “an impossible dilemma for russian occupiers in #Kherson: retreat or be annihilated by (Ukrainian army). The choice is theirs.”
The next closest intact bridge is located 130 miles away from Kherson, in Ukrainian-controlled Zaporizhzhia.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter that the “occupiers should learn how to swim across” the Dnipro or “leave Kherson while it is still possible.” “There may not be a third warning.”
Meanwhile, Kremlin and its allies have sought to downplay Russia’s apparent military setbacks and Ukraine’s gains.
Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of the Russian-appointed military-civilian administration running the Kherson region, has dismissed Western and Ukrainian assessments of the battlefield situation.
“Zelensky’s statement that Kherson region will be liberated in three to six weeks is…a lie. All these counter-offensives that result in a large number of Ukrainian casualties are coming to nothing,” Stremousov told Russia’s RIA news agency on Wednesday.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Zelensky, said Russia was conducting a “massive redeployment” of forces from the east to the south in what amounted to a strategic shift from attack to defense.
With Post Wires