57 Days and 1700 Missiles Into the War Russia Hits a Dnieper Bridge for the First Time
57 days into the war, and 1700 cruise and ballistic missiles later Russia has for the first time ever targeted a Dnieper bridge.
There are 25 Dnieper crossing points in Ukraine. Of these the lowest 3 are in Russian hands so that leaves 22 in Ukrainian hands.
The most strategically important at this moment are the crossings in the south, the 5 in Dnipro, and especially the 3 in Zaporozhye.
If the Ukrainian army is decisively defeated in Donbass it can retreat in the NW direction toward Poltava or it can fall back behind the Dnieper using the Dnipro and/or Zaporozhye bridges.
In the meantime these same communication lines — from the NW, through Dnipro, and through Zaporozhye — serve as the supply routes for the Ukrainian forces in Donbass.
Eliminating all 22 crossing points might be a tall order, especially since 5 of them run over dams which would be difficult to cut without risking major flooding and numerous civilian casualties.
However, the number of railway crossings is just 9 and just 2 of these run over dams.
By collapsing the 7 railway bridges and cutting the remaining 2 lines by repeated retargeting of marshaling grounds (rather than dams) Russia could have Ukraine split in half for railway purposes.
But Russia has not opted for this. It has been, however, targeting rail infrastructure directly behind Donbass. This perhaps forces the Ukrainians to make the last part of a supply trip with trucks but still allows them to get quite close with trains.
Today, for the first time a Dnieper bridge has been targeted. The railway bridge in Zaporozhye. The lower-most Dnieper railway crossing in Ukrainian hands. There isn’t another one for 80 kilometers upstream in Dnipro.
The bridge still stands and will probably be in use again quickly. But the Russians may also retarget it. Perhaps with a more powerful Iskander ballistic missile rather than the Kh-59 cruise missile they used the first time.
Does this mean that a Russian campaign to split Ukraine in half has started? No, it probably doesn’t.
The bridge was likely targeted in the context of the existing campaign against rail infrastructure directly behind Donbass. On the same day, more railway infrastructure was targeted around Dnipro.
“We have three missile strikes on the railway infrastructure in the Novomoskovsk region. The railway track and the contact network were badly damaged. It is not yet clear whether we will be able to resume traffic,” said Reznichenko, head of the Dnepropetrovsk OVA.
— Levi (@Levi_godman) April 21, 2022
Interestingly the Zaporozhye bridges are an obvious target yet a Russian subsonic cruise missile was able to score a hit.