On Tuesday, the Ukrainian military resumed bombarding targets in southern Ukraine to disrupt Russian supply lines, damage Russia's combat capabilities, and isolate Russian forces. Analysts believe this might be the start of a large and planned counteroffensive.
The Ukrainian military asserted that its forces had breached Russia's first line of defense at many spots along the front in the seized area of Kherson, but officials provided few specifics, and their assertions could not be independently confirmed.
Western military analysts noted that Russian forces had had months to reinforce various lines of defense across the south, making it probable that any Ukrainian advance would be deadly and difficult. Uncertainty lingered about whether the strikes signified the beginning of a long-anticipated counteroffensive or merely a continuation of weeks of Ukrainian counterattacks.
On Tuesday, the British military intelligence agency said that Ukrainian brigades had "increased the weight of artillery fires in frontline sectors across southern Ukraine" but that it was "impossible to confirm the extent of Ukrainian advances."
The southern front runs across a large area of farms, fields, and grassland and includes territory captured by Moscow's soldiers in February during the initial phase of their invasion. Ukraine has conducted irregular counterattacks in the region for months, including using long-range missiles from Western partners to strike behind Russian lines. In contrast, Russia has rushed to fortify its defenses. At the beginning of August, military analysts believed Russia had as many as 25,000 soldiers west of the Dnieper River in the Kherson region, forming three defensive lines.
Currently, these forces appear to be the most vulnerable since Ukraine appears capable of attacking all of the main river crossings that Russia needs to supply these troops. Despite this, the Ukrainian military command generally remained silent about troop movements.
Nataliya Gumenyuk, the spokesperson for the Ukrainian military's southern command, declined to identify any sites where Ukrainian forces had advanced or villages that had been regained, citing the risk of making them targets.
"You must realize that these villages are still in the danger zone and could be targeted by enemy artillery and aircraft," she said at a news conference. Russia initially denied that the Ukrainians were conducting offensive operations in Kherson, then claimed that all enemy thrusts had been repelled at a high cost to the Ukrainians but provided no proof to substantiate this allegation. Kirill Stremousov, the Russia-appointed proxy leader in Kherson, predicted that Ukrainians would soon be overwhelmed and outmaneuvered.
"There is no place to hide in this steppe," he added. This territory has the potential to become a trap for Ukrainian soldiers.
Ilya Ponomaryov, a former Russian lawmaker who now opposes the Kremlin from exile in Ukraine, is under investigation for spreading false information about the Russian military, TASS reported on Tuesday, citing a Moscow court.
It was reported that investigators had ordered his "arrest in absentia," thereby making him a wanted individual who would be detained if he returned to Russia.
According to legislation established eight days after the February 24 invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, "public dissemination of deliberately false information" about the military is punishable by penalties or, in the most severe cases, up to 15 years in prison.