The Kherson region near Crimea has been under Kremlin control since March 2 after a bloody six-day battle, with Russians driving north from the occupied peninsula.
Yet the invaders have faced intense pushback by Ukraine over recent weeks, with Kyiv now confident it will liberate the region by September.
According to the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) daily intelligence update this morning: ‘Long convoys […] continue to move away from Ukraine’s Donbas region and are headed southwest.’
The ruined Fabrika shopping mall in occupied southern capital Kherson (image from July)
Locals look at damage caused by Russian airstrikes on a residential street in eastern Ukraine
The MoD added: ‘Battalion tactical groups (BTG), which comprise between 800 and 1,000 troops, have been deployed to Crimea and would almost certainly be used to support Russian troops in the Kherson region.
‘Ukrainian forces are focusing their targeting on bridges, ammunition depots, and rail links with growing frequency in Ukraine’s southern regions.
‘Russia’s war on Ukraine is about to enter a new phase, with the heaviest fighting shifting to a roughly 350km front line stretching southwest from near Zaporizhzhia to Kherson, paralleling the Dnieper River.’
Meanwhile footage posted to Telegram appeared to show Ukrainian rockets strike a Russian armoured car – the type likely to be in the ‘long convoys’ said to be on their way to Kherson.
Resident stands on ruined plants in Kostiantynivka, 50 miles south of Kyiv-held Kramatorsk
The news comes amid reports of heinous Russian war crimes in Kherson ‘on a scale almost too sickening to contemplate’, according to Ukraine.
Pro-democracy campaigners in the city claim that in Kherson, Russians are hunted by snipers, ambushed and bombed. Thanks to consignments of Western arms, the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) has the power to inflict serious damage.
The weapon the Russians fear most is the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), supplied by the US and capable of firing barrages of missiles from the back of an armoured lorry.
Both manoeuvrable and lethally accurate, these rocket launchers are effectively unstoppable. They can wipe out an ammunition dump or a column of tanks in one hit.
The last consignment of HIMARS was expected to sustain the AFU for a month. But they blazed off the whole lot in three days — and with devastating effects.
Homeowners take in the horrific damage caused by the airstrike in Kostiantynivka yesterday
Kherson regional governor Serhii Khlan vowed last week: ‘We can say that the Kherson region will definitely be liberated by September, and all the occupiers’ plans will fail.’
The bold predication came after a week in which Ukraine struck two key bridges leading to Kherson in an apparent attempt to cut the city off from reinforcements, and as video revealed destroyed Russian anti-air systems in the region.
Kherson is the only regional capital to have fallen to Putin’s troops in the five-month war and is Russia’s only foothold on the western bank of the Dnipro river which flows down the centre of Ukraine.
Recapturing it would deal a major propaganda blow to Putin’s forces, and spell a possible end to its attempts to push west along the Black Sea to the port of Odesa.
Russia’s generals have previously said that cutting off Ukraine from the Black Sea – denying Zelensky’s government access to its most-lucrative trading routes – is a key aim of their war.
Ballet dancers take part in a Ukraine Independence Day gathering in Odessa earlier today