Ukrainian special forces raided a village in Russian-occupied territory. The results and reasons remain mysterious but caused “some inevitable and extremely painful problems” to Moscow’s forces.
August 9, 2023
According to the independent Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and its sources, early on Tuesday morning, Ukrainian forces landed up to seven boats – each carrying around six to seven soldiers – near the settlement of Kozachi Laheri, and then broke through Russian defensive lines, and advanced up to 800 meters deep.
A pro-Russian milblogger said that the raid caused “some inevitable and extremely painful problems” to Russian forces.
But Kyiv has remained tight-lipped – speaking on Wednesday, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar Ukraine “does not confirm the information” about the raid.
What happened during the raid?
Kozachi Laheri is on the Russian-occupied [left bank] side of the Dnipro River, Ukraine’s main tributary, in the Kherson region. It is about 3 kilometers inland from the Dnipro and just to the south of the Konka River which flows parallel to the Dnipro.
The village has about 3,700 residents, but some were evacuated when Russian forces blew up the dam of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant on June 6, 2023. It has been occupied by Russian forces since Feb. 24, 2022.
In Ukrainian, the town’s name translates as “Cossack Camps” and reflects the region’s historical ties to Ukraine’s 17th and 18th century independence movements.
While Ukrainian officials have not formally commented about the raid, the Ministry for Defense confirmed on Monday – one day before the raid – that its special forces troops are operating in the area.“The fighters of the special purpose unit of the Defense Intelligence Directorate (HUR) of the Ministry of Defense, the Shaman Battalion, are moving deep into the occupied territories and continue to cause losses to the enemy,” HUR reported on its website Monday.
These forces have previously been referred to as “devils” by pro-Russian milbloggers.
Earlier today, a pro-Ukrainian milblogger Telegram channel released photos that were purportedly from the raid and that show apparently captured equipment and Russian POWS.
The caption to the Telegram post said: “The results of the raid by the Special Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) and units of the AFU on the left bank of the Kherson region. As a result of the actions of the Defense Forces, the Katsap [derogatory for Russian – ed.] forces in that sector were forced to leave the settlement and the nearest strongholds.”
Dva Mayory, a prominent pro-Russian milblogger, said that “under a cloud of smoke to obfuscate their movement, Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance teams crossed the Konka River.”
Ukrainian forces then “took advantage of the [troop] pivot at the front and struck from the flank, reaching a settlement on the banks of the Dnipro,” the milblogger posted.“The effect of surprise and belated reaction allowed the AFU to land and advance unhindered towards [Kozachi Lageri], after which the Russian troops drove them back,” Dva Mayory said.
However, another pro-Russian milblogger, The 13th, reported that Ukrainian troops actually occupied the town and advanced 800 meters into Russian-held territory. “This is a very bad trend,” The 13th said.
Another pro-Russian milblogger criticized Russian defenses and suggested the town may remain under Ukrainian control.
“It’s not currently clear if Ukrainian troops are still on the Russian side of the river. However, the fact that Ukrainian troops were able to land without interdiction from Russian air support shows that Russian planners were outpaced by Ukrainian deception techniques,” it posted.
What was the raid’s goal?
In terms of the special forces raid’s purpose, there were different views in the milblogger sphere.
One pro-Ukrainian milblogger described the raid as an attempt to “establish another small bridgehead on the Russian-occupied side of the Dnipro River” which refers to current Ukrainian micro-bridgeheading attempts near the Antonivka Bridge outside Kherson City and at Oleshky.
An alternative goal, according to a pro-Ukrainian site, may have been a more opportunistic one.“This latest cross-river incursion may be an attempt to take advantage of seasoned Russian forces leaving to reinforce against Kyiv’s counteroffensive elsewhere,” the pro-Ukrainian site said.
Dva Mayory shared that assessment.“This is a move by Ukraine to take advantage of Russia’s need to bolster the front lines in Zaporizhzhia and the Donbas, where elements of Russia’s vaunted airborne units have transferred,” the milbloggers posted on Telegram.
“The goal, in this case, is simple – to take advantage of the inexperience and ignorance of [the new reinforcements] to create a bridgehead on the left bank,” Dva Mayory said.
Other analysts see a broader military strategy may be playing out, including Ukraine spreading its offensive or changing its point of attack.
“Given that Russia may also be transferring artillery batteries to Zaporizhzhia and the Donbas, Ukraine may be looking for opportunities to bring more troops across the Dnipro, which at 80 kilometers from Crimea is far closer to the occupied peninsula than the current front lines near Robotyne, some 210 kilometers to the northwest of it,” The WarZone website said.
Map from The WarZoneUkrainian forces, meanwhile, remain entrenched on the left bank of the Dnipro at the Antonivka Bridge closer to Kherson City, where Russian bombing runs and shelling have been trying to dislodge them for a month.
There was also a recent advance across the Dnipro about 16 kilometers southwest of Kozachi Lageri at Oleshky. The status of that potential bridgehead is unclear.
The WarZone also said that “regardless of what either side is saying, NASA’s Fire Information for Resources Management System (FIRMS) imaging seems to show what may be an increased level of artillery fire taking place in this area.”