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Russia Is Facing A Road Problem Now That It Has Lost Kherson
Maps are fun things. All by themselves they can tell a person much about an area—not just aspects of terrain but also the state of key infrastructures connecting various communities within a region.
Looking at a map of southeastern Ukraine, one begins to see that the retreat from Kherson was potentially a much larger defeat than Russia cares to admit. Following Russia’s historical defensive doctrines of relying on geographic depth to keep adversaries far off, Kherson is vital to defending Putin’s “land bridge” to Crimea, and a simple map shows why.
Functionally, Putin’s “land bridge” reduces to just two major highways into the Crimean Peninsula: The T2202 running roughly south from Nova Kakhovka until it links up with the E97 at Armiansk just over the Isthmus of Perekop within Crimea proper, and the E105 which runs southwest from Melitopol where it crosses into Crimea across the Chongar Strait.
Russia will have a difficult time using the T2202 to resupply Crimea, as the largest highway connecting it to Melitopol is the M14, which connects to the T2202 just south of Nova Kakhovka, a junction that is now well within range of virtually all of Ukraine’s artillery in the region.
To make matters worse, Armiansk itself is less that 50 miles from Nova Kakhovka.
What is the significance of the 50 mile distance? That is the range of the HIMARS system using extended-range GMLRS rockets—basic HIMARS munitions, in other words. Even regular artillery ranges of 25 miles is sufficient to interdict a significant portion of the T2202, limiting or even eliminating its utility as a resupply corridor for Crimea.
With the loss of Kherson, Russia has conceded the entire “right” (also the “north” or “west”) of the Dnipro, which puts the entire Isthmus of Perekop under Ukrainian artillery.
At the same time, an entire stretch of the M14 highway from Melitopol is also under Ukrainian artillery.
Russia may have taken up defensive positions east of the Dnipro, but the challenges of supplying those positions remain largely unchanged from when it occupied Kherson city.
Regarding supply lines to Crimea, due to the damage done to the Kerch Bridge, the only even somewhat secure and intact supply route into Crimea is now the E105—which also relies on a bridge to cross the Chongar strait.
The Kerch Bridge attack also demonstrates another reality of the logistics behind supplying the Crimea: a bridge need not be completely destroyed to restrict the flows of vital supplies across it. With Ukraine having already demonstrated creative capacities in using drones to attack military targets (e.g., the recent drone strike at Sevastopol), it is not inconceivable Ukraine may find a way to mount a drone attack on the Chongar Strait bridge, not necessarily to destroy it but merely to limit how much traffic can flow across it.
If the US provides Ukraine with Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles, the Chongar Strait bridge could potentially be completely severed in a single HIMARS barrage, which would effectively destroy the “land bridge” into Crimea.
With proper targeting of the roads leading into Crimea, it is entirely conceivable that Ukraine can at the very least greatly restrict the flow of supplies into Crimea. It has already achieved that objective for the Kerch Bridge, and now the “land bridge” routes are coming within Ukraine artillery and drone strike range—with or without ATACMS munitions.
Moreover, these same roads are necessary to keep Russia’s forces in the eastern portion of Kherson Oblast—that part of the region on the east side of the Dnipro to which Russia retreated when it surrendered Kherson city itself. Without taking any additional territory or having to execute a risky river crossing, Ukraine has already achieved the capacity of disrupting Russian logistics in eastern Kherson Oblast, both from Crimea and from Melitopol.
This is the strategic significance of Kherson. Holding the city is essential for keeping Ukrainian artillery far enough away from the Isthmus of Perekop to be able to defend supply lines both into and out of Crimea. Now that Kherson is back in Ukraine’s hands, those supply lines are under constant threat of artillery and HIMARS attack.
No amount of missile attacks on Ukrainian civilian infrastructures will change the simple realities as revealed by a map of southeastern Ukraine. There are only so many routes in and out of Crimea for Putin to utilize, and Ukraine has already compromised all but one of them.
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