Ukrainian advances in southern Ukraine could lead to, well, further Ukrainian advances in southern Ukraine. To understand why, look at Russian logistics in the region. Specifically, the town of Myrne in Kherson Oblast, 38 miles south of the Dnipro River.
Myrne is a critical railway hub for the Russians in Kherson Oblast. It’s now within range of Ukraine’s American-made High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS. Expect rockets to start raining down on Myrne any day now.
Why this matters should be obvious. The Ukrainian counteroffensive that has liberated all of Kherson Oblast north of the Dnipro—including Kherson city—didn’t actually begin two months ago when the first Ukrainian brigades attacked.
No, it began in May, as the Ukrainians deployed the first of their 20 new wheeled HIMARS and other Western-made artillery systems and began targeting Russian supply lines as far as 40 miles behind the front lines.
The counterlogistics campaign, characterized by breathless reports of exploding Russian ammunition depots, not only targeted warehouses full of shells and bullets, it also dropped bridges, wrecked rail lines and cratered airfields across eastern and southern Ukraine. Every node the Ukrainians removed from the Russian logistical network created inefficiencies, slow-downs and blockages that, taken together, had a profound effect on Russian operations.
Troops went hungry and lost their eagerness to fight. When they did fight, they couldn’t fight as hard because they lacked ammunition. Artillery batteries began running short on shells and couldn’t always support the infantry or respond to Ukrainian bombardment. Flying regiments near the front struggled to maintain their aircraft—and accidents spiked as a result.
The Ukrainians spent three months patiently degrading Russian logistics before finally attacking in the south and east in late August and early September. The eastern counteroffensive quickly liberated a thousand square miles of Kharkiv Oblast. The southern counteroffensive moved more slowly before finally breaking through last week, when the Kremlin ordered all of its tens of thousands of troops on the right bank of the Dnipro to retreat to the opposite side of the river.
Now Ukrainian troops are in Kherson and Ukrainian rockets and artillery almost certainly are consolidating on the right bank of the Dnipro. With an estimated range of 50 miles, the GPS-guided M30 rockets that Ukraine’s HIMARS fire now can reach Myrne, a town of 1,800 a few miles north of the narrow land bridge connecting Kherson Oblast to the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula.
Myrne itself isn’t much. But it’s the site of the Kalanchak railway station, making it the most important stopover for trains rolling north from Crimea. Analysts back in September and October used commercial satellite imagery to identify large warehouses and trucks that are indicative of intensive Russian supply activities at Kalanchak.
Myrne appears to be a “transshipment” hub, where one mode of transport ends and another begins. Specifically, trains carrying men, vehicles and supplies from Crimea stop in Myrne and unload their cargo. Vehicles can continue on their own. The men and supplies pack into trucks for a trip to the front-line battalions.
It’s safe to say the Kalanchak railway station now is one of the juiciest targets for Ukrainian rockets and artillery. That Ukraine will bombard Myrne almost is certain. When it does so probably depends on how quickly Ukrainian artillery and rocket troops can reposition on the Dnipro’s right bank.
The same counterlogistics campaign that set the conditions for Ukraine’s fall counteroffensives now could begin setting conditions for fresh counteroffensives later this winter or in the spring. You’ll know it’s happening when videos and photos circulate online depicting Myrne in flames.