In November, the Ukrainian Armed Forces crossed the Dnieper River and established a beachhead in Krynky, Kherson Oblast. Since then, Russian troops have launched several counterattacks seeking to dislodge that force. The United Kingdom Intelligence Service has published an unclassified report detailing how the recently re-established 104th Gaurds Airborne Division of the Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) has been decimated in its frontal attacks to dislodge that beachead.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 14 December 2023.
— Ministry of Defence ?? (@DefenceHQ) December 14, 2023
The battles have been so fraught that even President Putin confirmed the tactical retreat of Russian units in this area, albeit, through a much more optimistic lens:
“Now, regarding these Krynki, well, what’s going on there. The enemy announced a big counter-offensive, nothing happened anywhere, the last attempt, at least today it looks like the last attempt, was to break through to the left bank of the Dnieper and ensure movement in the direction Crimea. Everyone talks about it, everyone knows it well, and there is nothing new here. What happened in this area: the Ukrainian Armed Forces concentrated their artillery strike on a very narrow section of the left bank, in order to save our guys and not expose them to unnecessary risk and not incur losses.”
He continued: “it was decided by the military command to move back a few meters. I’ll tell you, as a war correspondent, you understand what I’m talking about, into forest plantations – they hide personnel and protect against unnecessary losses…the Ukrainian Armed Forces entered this small section of the coast; it was approximately 1,200 meters long and about 300 meters wide. “I don’t even know why they are doing this – they are pushing their people to simply exterminate. The Ukrainian servicemen themselves say that this is a one-way road. After all, in order to send personnel there, there were 80 people there all the time, now there are fewer “They only use boats, but they are under fire from artillery, drones, and other weapons.”
The 104th Divison was reduce to a single brigade (31st) after the Cold War, but in August 2023, the commander of the Russian Airborne Forces, Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky, announced that the unit would be reactivated by the end of 2023. This reactivation includes reestablishing the 104th Air Assault Division (originating from the 31st Brigade) and placing the 31st Guards Airborne Brigade under the division’s command. Additionally, the 119th and 299th Airborne Regiments will be integrated into the existing 106th and 98th Airborne Divisions. These measures are part of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s planned military unit expansions from 2022. Shoigu commented in September 2023 that the division was almost complete.
Parts of the 104th entered the conflict in Ukraine in November 2023.