Something big could be coming at KhersonJuly 14, 2022
When writing about Russia’s attack on Vinnytsya this morning, there’s one big item I left out. Russia didn’t launch three missiles at the city. It launched five. It’s just that two of the missiles never made it to their targets, but were knocked down by Ukrainian air defenses.
The range of the attack, and reports that it was submarine launched, suggests that the model of the Kalibr used was one that is capable of flying to the area of the target at subsonic speeds, then accelerating to speeds over Mach 3 to maximize kinetic impact. The missile is also designed to dodge radar-based attempts at interception, and to engage in complex evasive maneuvers during the final approach. All of which means these things are darn difficult to intercept.
That Ukrainian air defense wasn’t able to knock down all five is a tragedy, but that it was able to stop two of them before they reached their targets is a definite triumph. Considering the targets that the three missiles which made it to the city struck, it’s hard not to ponder where the other two might have been directed. A school? A metro station? In any case, this much can be said for sure: Stopping those two missiles saved innocent lives.
It’s unclear just what system batted down these missiles. They could have been Soviet-era S-300 systems, or something like a U.K. Stormer / Starstreak system. Recently, Germany promised to send Ukraine medium-range IRIS-T systems and the U.S. teamed up with Norway to ship a pair of highly-regarded NASAMS systems. However, it’s not clear that either of these systems is yet in operation within Ukraine.
What’s clear is that right now, someone in a submarine under the Black Sea, there is a weapons station operator who fired those missiles, and a commander who gave the order to fire, and an admiral who told that commander to target those missiles, and Vladimir Putin who told them all to destroy Ukraine. And today they murdered a three year old girl and blew off her mother’s leg on their way to a doctor’s appointment. They all must be made to pay.
And somewhere there is also the operator of an air defense system who saved lives. That person deserves to be praised for the children, mothers, and everyone else who did not die because of their diligence. So do the people who put them there and provided them with gear. Defensive systems. Yes, please, more. It’s also worth noting that taking down Russian air defenses is a critical step if Ukraine is going to have air support during any prolonged counteroffensive.
Looking around Ukraine, other than the pain caused by Russian missile and artillery hits in cities, there’s not a huge lot to report. Overnight, Russia reportedly captured the town of Karulka, southwest of Izyum — which was kind of a surprise to everyone, as this is not on the route Russia has been trying to establish toward Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. However, if Russia did manage to capture the town, it managed to un-capture it by daybreak as Ukrainian forces were back in the area. There is now reported fighting north of the town, so I’m marking it “disputed,” but it’s not a big change in yesterday’s maps.
Also overnight, there was chatter that was talking up Ukraine moving in to “surround” Kherson, with claims that Russian forces there were panicking and attempting to flee the city. If all that sounds like you’ve heard it before, you have. This is approximately “Russia is getting ready to fleet from Kherson” 3.0. In spite of Telegram and Twitter talking up supposed Ukrainian forces moving under the cover of darkness, there doesn’t seem to have been a whole lot of change when the lights came up.
One thing that has changed: perception. Three weeks ago, Ukrainian forces reportedly crossed the Inhulets River south of Davydiv Brid and began capturing a series of small villages in the area. However, as the days went on, it seemed the Ukrainian forces were unable to capture Davydiv Brid itself or to push past the town of Bruskynske. As things grew quiet, very serious publications began to speculate that Ukrainian troops had either been withdrawn or destroyed. However, with a resumption of combat in the last two days, it seems that everyone is now willing to admit Ukraine still has forces east of the Inhulets. In fact, Ukraine seems to have retained control of some of the villages it took soon after forces slipped across the river.
Most of the “Kherson surrounded” chatter was based on Ukraine’s liberation of Kyselivka earlier in the week, and on the constant pounding that’s been delivered to Russian positions just outside of Kherson. However, at this point there still seems to be fighting going on not far east of Kyselivka and down at the far southern tip of the area around Stanislav. No real sign that Ukrainian forces are going to stroll down the highway without opposition, as nice as that might be.
However, as I am writing this, there are more reports of explosions near Chornobaivka, the Kherson suburb where a Russian command center was destroyed earlier this week. Reports also indicate that people inside Kherson can hear explosions and “the sounds of shooting.” But don’t get too excited. We’ve also heard that one before.
The map above shows a location where Ukraine has been directed heavy fire over the last three days. What’s there? On one side is a cemetery, actually. quite an extensive cemetery. On the other is a sewer treatment plant. Where the bombs are falling is an odd flat area crisscrossed by a grid of roads. Best guess: sludge. A place to spread out solid post-treatment waste. However, I’m open to other interpretations.
That thing off to the east that looks like it may be a bunch of solar panels? Nope. Giant poultry farm with rows and rows of chicken sheds. I have to hand it to the city planners in Kherson. If you’re going to set up a poultry farm, putting it near the sewage treatment plant certainly consolidates the zone of stink.
In any case, this is very close in to the city. It seems an unlikely place for Russia to set up another command center, but it also seems entirely likely that grid of roads could attract some kind of equipment placement. Or maybe Russia has dug in along that line of trees fronting the main road. Or maybe this whole place will be completely bypassed when Ukraine does move for Kherson. We’ll see.
And maybe Ukraine will have another angle from which to counterattack Kherson soon.
Taking Snihurivka would open up an approach from the north at the same time that Ukraine is able to move in from the west. If Snihurivka seems close to being liberated, it would probably pay to wait a few days before going for the big enchilada.