Babruysk Offensive

In the southern sector of operations, where the 1st Belorussian Front under Konstantin Rokossovsky faced Hans Jordan's Ninth Army, the main Soviet objective was Babruysk and the southern crossings of the Berezina, which would open up the route for the southern 'pincer' of the main encirclement. (Army Group Centre's southernmost flank was covered by Second Army in the Pripet Marshes, but this area was largely bypassed by the Soviet offensive.) Rokossovsky had bravely staked his reputation on a plan for a complex double-envelopment of the German forces at Babruysk, in opposition to Stalin's preferred plan of a single breakthrough in the sector.

Rokossovsky's attack, as with the other initial offensive operations of Operation Bagration, was preceded by a heavy artillery bombardment. The first assault, against strong German defences, was however repulsed with heavy casualties. Rokossovsky ordered further artillery preparation for July 24, which eventually resulted in a collapse of the 134th Infantry Division to the north of the sector, as the Soviet 3rd Army pushed forward; the 20th Panzer Division began to counter-attack, but Jordan then ordered it to turn southwards and confront a new breakthrough by the Soviet 65th Army under Batov.

On June 22, 1944, the Soviets launched their main summer offensive (Operation Bagration) in Belarus. Involving 2.5 million soldiers and over 6,000 tanks, the offensive sought to destroy Army Group Center while also preventing the Germans from diverting troops to combat the Allied landings in France. In the ensuing battle, the Wehrmacht suffered one its worst defeats of the war as Army Group Center was shattered and Minsk liberated.