Ukraine LIVE: Zelensky’s men launch ‘silent’ assault as Putin moves to cut off peninsula

It is not the first time that Kinburn Spit has had strategic significance: during the Crimean War, it was bombarded by French forces who saw it as key to controlling the Dniprovska Gulf. A Turkish-built Russian fortress erected on the peninsula was dismantled as part of the Treaty of Paris after facing allied artillery.

Now, the small stretch of land, barely 100 metres wide, is of renewed military value, and control of it provides not only secure passage into the Black Sea, but a beach head from which offensives on areas on the southern bank of the Dnipro River that Russia still controls. Military analysts believe capturing the spit would allow a potential crossing.

The spit is also said to be beyond the range of Russian artillery, so controlling it would allow Ukrainian naval activity to increase with less interdiction from shelling.

Ukraine’s southern military command believe retaking the peninsula would also secure grain shipments from the port at Mykolaiv, which has been maintained through a shaky deal brokered earlier this year restoring access. Though grain crops have been ravaged by the war, Ukraine is still one of the largest suppliers to third world nations.

However, Russia is also believed to be acutely aware of the significance the spit plays in its defence of Crimea and occupied territories it still holds in the south, following a humiliating retreat across the Dnipro from Kherson at the start of the month. Vitaly Kim, the Ukrainian commander of the regional operation, said it was the final remaining Russian territory in the oblast.

Ms Humeniuk said yesterday: “The enemy there pulls up forces from the temporarily occupied territory, so they can afford to restore their reserves even after we inflict damage […] Nevertheless, we continue our combat work.

“As soon as the results are available, we will report on it. For now, this military operation is in silent mode.”

Russia has in recent weeks been looking to establish defensive lines along the territory it controls before the winter sets in and fighting is expected to slow. However, Ukraine believes it can use the fierce, blustery conditions of the sea-swept outcrop to drive out the remaining Russian forces.

Ms Humeniuk added that, as the area is thin and surrounded by water, it “is not powerful enough to withstand a large concentration of troops”.