In yesterday’s Ukraine Update, I wrote about the premise that any Ukrainian pontoon bridge would have to connect to the road network on the other side of the river. I thought this meant that Ukraine needed to secure the area immediately opposite Antonivka (around Oleshky) or the Nova Kakhovka area.
I was wrong.
Daily Kos community user jeagerca pointed out to in the comments that Ukraine conducted pontoon bridge construction exercises upstream from Krynky in 2016 and 2020.
Defence Blog described how in joint exercises with the British Army in 2016, Ukrainian engineers were able to build a 560 meter span in two hours. The article was vague about the exact location of the pontoon bridge, noting only that it spanned the Dnipro River near Kherson City.
Jeagerca also referenced a recent video by Denys Davydov noting that the Armed Forces of Ukraine conducted two pontoon-building exercises in 2020 near this exact point and suggests that this is where Ukraine will cross the Dnipro. (Section begins at 1:31.)
I was intrigued.
- Assuming Davydov was correct about the location of the exercises, why would Ukraine choose this location?
- What was the exact location of the pontoon bridge that was constructed?
- Would Ukraine have any way to bring supplies further inland?
I began by looking at the terrain on the riverbank near Krynky. Northeast of Krynky and north of Korsunka, there was a bit of brown smudge of terrain that looked a little different than the marshes that lay along most of the riverbank.
Zooming in on that spit of land and … “holy **** is that a road?”
Yes, there’s definitely a road.
The road leads north out of Korsunka, next to the Korsun Monastery, then winds through flat dirt terrain along the riverbank to just south of the town of L’vove on the right bank of the Dnipro. The road is around 3 kilometers long, give or take.
The path is bisected by a small stream that runs north-south, around 20-25 meters wide, bridged by a small bridge or culvert. The bridge point is just 15 meters long, short enough to be spanned by any number of rapidly deployable bridge structures.
This certainly looked like the right place. All that was left was to geo-confirm the location of the past trainings.
There were three distinctive high-power electrical-line structures in the background of one of the photographs of the 2016 exercises. I was able to find the same structure along the Korsunka riverbank road.
That puts the pontoon crossing right here:
Everything matches up: the structures, the roads, and the width of the river. This is exactly where Ukraine twice practiced bridging.
Zooming out, we see that the value of this pontoon crossing becomes crystal clear.
L’vove, directly across the river is a short drive from the P47 highway. Thus, when Ukraine liberates Korsunka, they’ll be able to link it, through the crossing, through L’vove, and through the P47 highway straight to the city of Kherson.
Heading south of Korsunka, the T2206 highway connects to key towns to the west and the south toward Crimea. And heading it east, it’s a direct straight shot to Melitopol and would cut off the Russian garrison in Nova Kakhovka from its supply routes. The presence of the road and the homes along the river indicate that the terrain is dry and habitable—not swampland. There’s a reason this location was chosen for these military exercises. It couldn’t be practically and strategically more perfect.
Yesterday, we discussed Russia’s difficulties taking down bridges with missiles and rockets, given their poor accuracy. As such, tube artillery will be any bridge’s bigger danger.
Securing the pontoon crossing from artillery fire would merely require Ukraine to secure a handful of villages. Krynky, Korsunka, Novi Lahore, Pishchane. Korsunka is by far the largest of these, and had a pre-war population of just 1,400. These are fairly tiny villages.
For comparison, the town of Oleshky (south of Antonivka) has a population of over 24,000. Clearing these small villages should be dramatically easier than trying to clear a larger town, like Oleshky or Nova Kakhovka. Furthermore, with more of the combat taking place in rural settings, Ukraine can make better use of its DPICM cluster munitions that have been so integral to its firepower.
Lay the same circle over Andrew Perpetua’s control map in this area, and you can see what Ukraine is aiming to secure. It doesn’t look like a coincidence.
Ukraine still has a lot to do to secure a pontoon crossing north of Korsunka, but this is a far more manageable task than going through Oleshky or Nova Kakhovka.
Now you might be thinking, “Why are you talking about all of this? You might be giving valuable information away to incompetent Russians!” We were originally reluctant as well. The chances that the Russians would be unaware of this potential landing spot was extremely remote, but they weren’t zero. Even the tiniest risk would be unacceptable.
Unfortunately, it appears the Russians are aware of the significance of this location.
There are relatively fewer fortifications constructed on the left bank, but Russia still took the time to dig trenches and build fortifications along the Korsunka riverbed road, with a secondary line of fortifications blocking the roads to the strategic highway south of Korsunka. Russia is already well aware of the importance of this location. That explains why both sides are pouring resources into this area, rushing heavy equipment to secure this area.
If Ukraine can wrest four small villages from the Russians’ grasp, Ukraine may have the bridgehead it needs to build a pontoon crossing that can serve as a logistical hub for further advances into lightly fortified Kherson Oblast and toward either Crimea or Melitopol (or both).