The Ukrainian military said it blew up a key Russian crossing point over the Siverskyi Donets River on its eastern front, inflicting heavy casualties in a potentially major blow to Kremlin plans for the Luhansk and Kharkiv regions.
Footage shared by the Ministry of Defense appeared to show a crumbling pontoon with dozens of armored vehicles destroyed or damaged on both banks.
“Artillerymen of the 17th tank brigade of the #UAarmy opened the holiday season for [Russian forces],” the Ministry mentioned on Twitter. “Some bathed in the Siverskyi Donets River, and some were scorched by the May sun.”
Kyiv Strategic Communications Directorate tweeted images of smoldering wreckage and two crumbling bridgeheads, and said the army’s 80th Separate Assault Brigade had “destroyed all attempts by Russian occupiers to cross” the river.
The Siverskyi Donets, which flows from southern Russia through the breakaway Ukrainian regions of Kharkiv and Luhansk, has become a key barrier against Russian attempts to consolidate territory it has seized since its invasion in February.
Ukraine’s military said on Wednesday that Russian forces were trying to take full control of Rubizhne, a town of 55,000 people on the east bank of the river, and were carrying out an offensive on Lyman, some 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) away. further west.
“[The] The Russian enemy is trying to hold positions on the right bank of the Siversky Donets River,” he said.
The British Ministry of Defense said on Thursday that despite initial successes in Kharkiv, Russia has in recent days started moving units on the eastern flank of the Siverskyi Donets in order to “reorganize and rebuild his forces after heavy losses”.
In April, Ukraine blew up a bridge in the neighboring Kharkiv region in an attempt to halt Russian advances.
“Russia worked on encircling Ukrainian forces,” said William Alberque, director of strategy, technology and arms control at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
“The Ukrainians blew up some critical bridges to prevent this. The Russians then created this floating bridge, creating a bottleneck with a lot of equipment.
He said the details in the website pictures – which showed severe but concentrated damage – suggested very precise use of heavy artillery guided by drones or nearby ground forces.
Serhiy Haidai, a Ukrainian military official in Luhansk, was quoted in local media as saying the pontoon attack took place against Russian units seeking to cross the river near the town of Bilohorivka and near the Lysychansk-Bakhmut highway, a key Ukrainian supply route.
“Bilohorivka is now an outpost in Luhansk Oblast where the Ruscists keep trying to cross the river, but end up feeding the fish,” he said.
Alberque said that although Russia lost a number of armored personnel carriers in the attack, it was unlikely to change the course of the conflict in Kharkiv and Luhansk.
“I think it will significantly affect operations in the region for some time, but it’s not like Russia is running out” of aircraft carriers, he said.
Siverskyi Donets’ pontoon attack may instead offer clues to the tactics deployed by both sides.
“Ukraine uses geography, they use rivers, whatever they can to force the Russians to take chokepoints and then attack those chokepoints when they become permissive targets,” Alberque said. .
“Having so many vehicles in such a small space so close to the Ukrainians shows incredibly poor discipline on the part of the Russians.”