Key Russian-Controlled City Cut Off as Western Weapons Hit Bridges: U.K.

Ukraine's armed forces have stepped up efforts to retake Kherson, the southern region that had been seized by Russian troops in March soon after they invaded, according to an an assessment by British defense officials.

Ukrainian forces were "gathering momentum" and were likely to have "established a bridgehead south of the Ingulets River," on Kherson's northern boundary, the U.K. Ministry of Defense (MOD) said on Thursday

It said that Ukrainian forces had used long-range U.S.-supplied rockets to strike three Dnipro River bridges which Russia relies on to supply the areas it controls.

Ukrainian soldiers
Ukrainian soldiers stand in front of a burning house hit by a shell in the outskirts of Bakhmut, Eastern Ukraine, on July 27, 2022. The British Ministry of Defense has said on July 28 that Ukrainian forces were “gathering momentum" in their bid to retake the southern Kherson region. BULENT KILIC/Getty Images

Among them was the crucial Antonovsky bridge that had been rendered "likely unusable" potentially stranding Russia's 49th army which "now looks highly vulnerable."

The MOD said that Kherson city, which is the most politically significant population center under Russian control, "is now virtually cut off from the other occupied territories."

Strategically located west of the Dnipro river, the city was the first to fall to Putin's forces and is key to Moscow's ability to sell its campaign to the Russian people as a success.

"Its loss would severely undermine Russia's attempts to paint the occupation as a success," said the MOD.

Newsweek has contacted the Russian Defense Ministry about the British officials' latest daily assessment which tends to talk up Ukrainian gains and Moscow's losses.

The head of the Russian-installed administration, Kirill Stremousov, played down the significance of the bridge strike saying that it "will not affect the course of hostilities in the region," the BBC reported.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised his army's strike on the bridge which he vowed Ukraine would rebuild, along with other crossings in the region. He said in his nightly address "we will liberate our territory with military, diplomatic and all other available means until we reach the legal borders of Ukraine."

"Whatever plans they have, we will disrupt them," he added.

Despite the progress Ukraine's forces have made in the region, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said that Russia was shifting its forces to the Melitopol and Zaporizhzhia areas as well as Kherson, signaling a change in tactics to strategic defense.

He told Ukrainian television on Wednesday that this would "place us in a position where we are unable to liberate all our territory and call for talks."

Meanwhile, in his assessment of the war, Jack Watling from London-based defense think tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) told the BBC on Thursday that "the military situation is favoring the Ukrainians," while the Russians were "losing a lot of skilled and important people."

However, he said that new Russian units were being mobilized with some of them going into the south, around Crimea. The question was whether they would reinforce Kherson to stop Ukraine's progress, "or are they going to be pushed somewhere else to try and seize the initiative and force the Ukrainians onto the defensive again?"