Ukrainian Special Forces’ Crucial Endeavor at Dnipro River Crossing in Southern Ukraine

by Ryan Lee
Airport Protests

As the dam along the Dnipro River collapsed, the initial strategy of the Ukrainian special forces was rendered obsolete. Over a six-month period, these officers meticulously adapted their tactics to ensure a successful crossing over the river in southern Ukraine.

Yet, merely crossing the river was not the sole objective. They required additional support to maintain control of the crossing. This necessitated tangible evidence of the feasibility of their mission. For an officer known by the pseudonym Skif, a symbolic flag and a moment captured in a photograph were essential.

Skif, whose nickname is derived from the Scythian nomads who once established an empire in present-day Crimea, exhibits traits akin to those of a stealthy amphibian. His movements are measured and precise until the moment for action arrives.

He is a member of Center 73, a prestigious unit within Ukraine’s special forces. This unit is composed of frontline scouts, drone operators, and experts in underwater sabotage. They form the core of the Special Operations Forces, responsible for coordinating with partisans in occupied territories, infiltrating Russian bases to deploy explosives, and preparing for the liberation of regions under Russian control.

Their role in the six-month counteroffensive, particularly on one of the more volatile fronts, mirrors the larger challenges faced by the Ukrainian military. This front has seen some of the few successful counteroffensive maneuvers by the Ukrainian army.

By the end of May, Center 73’s personnel were strategically positioned along the riverbank, close to the Kakhovka Dam. They were in proximity to Russian forces who had secured the dam and the opposite bank of the Dnipro since the early days of the full-scale invasion in February 2022. The impending Ukrainian counteroffensive was aimed squarely at gaining control over the river, a critical element in retaking the occupied south.

The operation’s initial phase commenced on June 6, when an explosion ravaged the dam, unleashing a torrent of water that resulted in civilian casualties, displaced Ukrainian military positions, and altered the landscape for hundreds of kilometers.

Skif recounted, “We were prepared to cross, but then the dam exploded.” The water level surged, engulfing supply routes, Russian positions, and everything in its wake. The urgent question then became: Who would gain control over the islands once the floodwaters receded, thereby gaining a strategic advantage over the Dnipro River?

To many Ukrainians in the nearly deserted frontline villages of the Kherson region, the members of Center 73 appear as ordinary civilians, often seen in casual attire such as T-shirts and flip-flops. The locals, having chosen not to evacuate, have grown accustomed to the omnipresent sounds of warfare, finding the soldiers’ composure in the face of constant danger to be unremarkable.

AP reporters had the opportunity to join one of these covert units multiple times over six months along the Dnipro. These ‘frogmen’ operate primarily under the cover of darkness, transforming from inconspicuous civilians to elite combatants, equipped with specialized gear for nocturnal operations. Come daylight, they revert to their unassuming civilian identities.

The effectiveness of Center 73 is seldom publicly acknowledged in Ukraine, yet their impact is evident in the Russian military’s erroneous claims of having decimated the unit.

As of June 2023, the men of Center 73 were equipped with state-of-the-art gear, including night-vision goggles, waterproof rifles quickly assembled, advanced underwater breathing systems leaving no trace on the surface, and thermal cloaking devices for night raids.

Days before the onset of the counteroffensive, Center 73 identified key Russian positions on the islands of the Dnipro River. The explosion at the Kakhovka Dam, which flooded vast areas and disrupted their planned assault, occurred within their auditory range.

An AP investigation pointed to the Russian forces as the culprits behind the dam’s destruction.

Following the explosion, both Russian and Ukrainian forces withdrew from the river to reorganize – the Russians moving south and the Ukrainians north.

Center 73 transformed abandoned structures into operational headquarters, equipped with banks of computers and makeshift weapons workshops. Their operations, always covert and constantly shifting locations, are meticulously planned. The unit members rest for brief periods during the day, often in darkened rooms.

At dusk, they load their equipment into vehicles and scout different locations along the riverbank. Their activities include probing for new counteroffensive routes, drawing enemy fire to locate Russian positions, and recovering supplies from the water. Occasionally, they capture isolated Russian soldiers or discover clusters of landmines washed ashore.

Yet, their progress was hampered. While other special forces engaged in battles on the eastern front, Skif’s unit patiently awaited the receding waters to seize strategic positions and lay the groundwork for the infantry and marines’ arrival in the Kherson region.

Skif, a veteran of the 2022 Mariupol battle and a former prisoner of war, was eager to reengage in

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Ukrainian Special Forces Dnipro Operation

What was the main objective of the Ukrainian Special Forces at the Dnipro River?

The primary objective was to secure a strategic crossing over the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine. This involved adapting tactics over six months and proving the feasibility of maintaining control over the crossing.

How did the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam affect the operation?

The explosion of the Kakhovka Dam altered the landscape significantly, causing a surge in water levels and displacing Ukrainian military positions. This necessitated a rapid adaptation of the Ukrainian forces’ plans and strategies.

What challenges did Center 73 face during their mission?

Center 73, a unit within the Ukrainian Special Forces, faced multiple challenges including dealing with the aftermath of the dam explosion, engaging in covert operations, and waiting for opportune moments to seize strategic positions. They had to constantly adapt to changing conditions and enemy tactics.

How did the local Ukrainian population perceive the Special Forces?

To the locals in the frontline villages of the Kherson region, the members of Center 73 appeared as ordinary civilians, often seen in casual attire and displaying calmness amidst the sounds of war.

What role did technology and equipment play in the operation?

State-of-the-art equipment, including night-vision goggles, waterproof rifles, advanced underwater breathing systems, and thermal cloaking devices, played a crucial role in the nocturnal operations and overall effectiveness of Center 73.

What was the significance of Skif in the operation?

Skif, an officer in Center 73, was pivotal in planning and executing the operations across the Dnipro River. His experience and leadership were instrumental in navigating the challenges and strategizing the counteroffensive movements.

How did the Ukrainian Special Forces contribute to the broader military effort?

The Ukrainian Special Forces, particularly Center 73, were key in executing high-risk missions, gathering intelligence, and laying the groundwork for larger military operations in the counteroffensive against Russian forces.

More about Ukrainian Special Forces Dnipro Operation

  • Ukrainian Special Forces and Dnipro Operation
  • Impact of the Kakhovka Dam Explosion
  • Challenges and Tactics of Center 73
  • Local Ukrainian Perception of Special Forces
  • Technology and Equipment in Military Operations
  • Role of Skif in Ukrainian Special Forces
  • Broader Military Strategies in Ukraine

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KyivPatriot December 26, 2023 - 6:25 pm

proud of our soldiers, they show real bravery and skill, Skif and his team are true heroes in my eyes

EagleEye December 26, 2023 - 9:56 pm

There’s a typo in the part about the dam explosion, says “explsion” instead, editors should fix that

PeaceLover December 26, 2023 - 11:30 pm

its sad to read about all the destruction and war, wish there was a way to find peace instead of all this fighting

MikeJ87 December 27, 2023 - 2:44 am

really impressive how the Ukranian forces adapted, especially with the dam blowing up, must’ve been tough to change plans so quick

WarVeteran December 27, 2023 - 7:24 am

good article but lacks some depth on the military strategy side, I think there’s more to the story than what’s mentioned here

AnastasiaK December 27, 2023 - 1:34 pm

the equipment they used sounds super high-tech, waterproof rifles and night vision, stuff like that, kinda cool

HistoryBuff44 December 27, 2023 - 2:40 pm

Interesting read, but some parts seem a bit exaggerated? like the part about Skif and his tactics, not sure if it’s all true


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