Ukraine Counteroffensive Retaking Key Terrain
Russian forces have been forced out of two logistical support hubs.
NYT (“Ukraine Attacks Russia Along Northern Front, Swiftly Making Gains“):
Ukrainian forces have scored the most significant battlefield gains since they routed Russia from the area around Kyiv in April by reclaiming territory in the northeast, according to Ukrainian officials, Western analysts and battlefield imagery.
In his overnight address to the nation Thursday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the Ukrainian military had captured scores of villages and large chunks of Russian-occupied territory across Ukraine since the offensive began. “In total, more than a thousand square kilometers of the territory of Ukraine have been liberated since the beginning of September,” he said.
On Friday the Ukrainian military appeared to be moving rapidly to cut off the city of Izium, a critical logistical hub for Russian military operations.
And, no, this doesn’t appear to be mere propaganda from Zelensky.
The exact positions of Ukrainian forces in the area around Izium could not be independently established. But satellite data, independent military analysts and photos and videos of Ukrainian forces indicated that they had moved quickly toward Kupiansk, another logistical hub just north of Izium.
And it seems the setback for the Russians is indeed significant:
The new offensive in the north appears to have caught the Russian forces off guard. On Friday, its Defense Ministry said on Telegram that it was moving troops to reinforce the Kharkiv region, without specifying their numbers or specific locations.
Ukraine’s advances in the northeast sent a shock wave through Kremlin-friendly military bloggers, pro-war cheerleaders who typically call for more aggressive action.
“We need to be honest, the Ukrainian command has outplayed us here,” said Yury Podolyaka, a Ukrainian pro-Kremlin blogger with more than 2.2 million followers on Telegram. He warned that if the Russian forces failed to “stop the Ukrainian breakthrough” in the coming days “this will be the most serious combat defeat” for Moscow.
Caution is obviously in order:
Ukrainian and Western officials cautioned that the offensive operations were in their early days, that the situation was fluid and that the gains were far from secure. Not all of the claims of advances by Ukraine could be independently verified, and much about the state of the fighting in both the east and the south of Ukraine is shrouded in uncertainty as the government in Kyiv enforces a media blackout, restricting journalists’ access to the front.
For months, Ukraine’s leaders declared loudly and often their intention to launch a counteroffensive in the south, around the port city of Kherson. And they proceeded to batter Russian supply lines, ammunition depots and command centers in the region with precision rockets, while massing troops and orchestrating covert attacks on military bases and Russian collaborators far behind enemy lines.
The US and its NATO allies have provided an incredible amount of materiel and intelligence support, without which none of this would have been possible, but the Ukrainians themselves are doing the fighting and dying. One certainly hopes that this is the beginning of a wave rather than a crest.
A BBC report (“Kharkiv offensive: Ukraine enters key town as counter-attack gathers pace“) for which I received a news alert as I was composing this adds a bit of further hop:
On Friday a Russia-appointed official in the Kharkiv region admitted that Ukrainian forces had won a “significant victory”.
“The very fact of a breach of our defences is already a substantial victory for the Ukrainian armed forces,” Vitaly Ganchev told state TV.
The Kremlin has so far refused to comment on the pace of the offensive, but Russia’s defence ministry published a video allegedly showing the transfer of troops towards Kharkiv.
It remains to be seen how long Putin can sustain these losses without losing critical public support.
I’ve not been optimistic that Ukraine could win against Russia, which has a much larger population and economy. But as long as Ukraine is fully mobilized and heavily supported by the West, and Putin refuses to admit what’s going on and mobilize Russia, things are suddenly looking very hopeful. Slava Ukraini. And Way to go, Brandon.
What strikes me is just how bad Russian intelligence is. In the age of satellites and drones and presumably at least some human intel, how in the hell do you miss that northern offensive?
If we end up seeing that the Ukrainians gain ground during the winter months from the Russians, I’m going to find that deeply, deeply ironic, given what happened in WW2.
I’ve been following Chuck Pfarrer on this stuff, overall he’s been pretty dependable.
@OzarkHillbilly: Adam Silverman at Balloon Juice has been doing a good nightly summary since day one. He usually links to Pfarrer. Silverman’s been showing the daily (but no update yesterday) British Ministry of Defense map each night. It’s been basically the same for four months. It’s so striking that suddenly the maps are changing.
The Russians should be told that if they blow that nuke plant, or cause it to leak radiation that reaches Europe, NATO will consider it an act of war.
@Michael Reynolds: It’s possible they didn’t miss it, but lacked the resources and transport to reinforce north and south. I still half way think the south was intended as a feint, but once they started breaking through, they adapted quickly.
@gVOR08: Yep, I found Chuck thru Adam.
Indications are they’d shifted troops south in anticipation of the Khersov offensive. If so then they were played. That’s not the sort of thing that works if you have decent intelligence. How did they not see troops and equipment ready for a second attack in the north? That’s just astonishing to me.
They captured a Russian lieutenant general ( something like a two star?) who had changed into a junior officer’s uniform to flee. That smells like panic.
@Michael Reynolds: Lt. Gen. is a three star flag officer. A typical command for a Lt. Gen is a corps (usually 3 divisions).
@Michael Reynolds: cow boy demands. No one needs a nuclear war. Nato-Russian armed conflict will go nuclear. Lose lose.
@a country lawyer:
In the U.S. army.
Disagree. If the reactor goes it will have been a deliberate decision by Putin – he should be warned of serious consequences. Citizens of NATO countries will die. It will also be a crime against humanity. We cannot allow foreign countries to spray us with poison.
On the subject of sources, Military Summary is a Russian mil-blogger who has been predicting this northern offensive for a couple weeks. He’s no dummy but like all the Russians mil-bloggers has to play a careful game to maintain his access. IMO he’s worth paying attention to…with that necessary grain of salt.
In a fit of poetic justice, it seems the Russians fell for misinformation.
I’d be willing to at least entertain the idea that they saw both of them, realized they could only defend against one, and decided that they would rather hold in the southeast: the land bridge to Crimea, the water supply for Crimea, the enormous nuke plant, and a forlorn hope of being able to strike towards Odessa.
Of course, trying for the entire Black Sea coast/ports and ignoring Kyev and the northeast might have made more sense as an initial plan, rather than as a last-ditch effort.
If the Russians decide to screw with it, there’s no need to bother with the reactors. The spent fuel pools are not nearly so well contained, and if equipment is damaged so the pools drain and can’t be refilled, before long you’ve got spent fuel on fire spewing all of the nasty fission-product isotopes. Some of the Ukrainian experts have said that draining those pools is much more likely to produce a Chernobyl-like result.
Well, it rather looks like Russia is experiencing a full-on systemic collapse in the Kharkiv-Donbas front.
Latest reports have Ukraine at Kupiansk and possibly over the R. Oskil around there.
Indications Russians are abandoning positions at Vovchansk.
Others the Ukrainians may already be near Lysychansk and firing on targets around Severodonetsk.
Some reports of fighting at the edge of Donetsk Airport!
If so, potential for further developments south towards Mariupol?
Or E/NE to pocket the Lyman area?
Update: reported fighting on outskirts of Lyman!
This is incredible; a debacle of historic proportions and unprecedented speed.
Indications that Ukraine have infiltrated before or rushed now (unclear which) mobile forces into the Russian rear which are playing the old Kyiv game of stalk and ambush.
Only now they have 155mm guns and GLMRS rocketry to spot for as well.
Much unclear though.
But I don’t see how the Russians come back from this, given their economic/logistic/personnel issues.
And not to forget: Ukraine still has some 20k of Russia’s best units trapped and being hammered by artillery fire on the wrong side of the R. Dnipro around Kherson.
And now may be able to bring the main northern rail line to Kherson under long range artillery fire.
So an additional multiple tens of thousands may be partially isolated on the S/E side of the Dnipro.
All goes back to Russian initial and continuing error: failure to select an operational primary objective and concentrate on it.
They should have abandoned Kherson when they fell back from Kyiv, if they wanted to concentrate in Donbas.
Just could not bring themselves to give up on a “win”.
Hitler at Stalingrad (or Tunisia) all over.
They would be spraying themselves with poison to. Highly unlikely.
@Michael Reynolds: Don’t be a fucking cowboy idiot. NATO going to war over the bloody reactor is (a) inviting nuclear war, (b) not something full NATO will back, see (a), (c) Lose Lose response, (d) stupid cowboy posturing and unnecessary.
Insofar as by wind patterns such a result is self-harm, regardless it is rather more likely to be a fuck up and a blunder, for which Trump like cowboy posturing over war is doubly stupid.
Leave those of us in actual down-wind range of the site to make calls, not cowboys sitting on the other side of the Atlantic (or rather facing the Pacific) about spewing ‘us’ with poison.
Russian Defence Misistry states Russian forces have moved back from Izyum to “regroup” and move forces south-eastwards to the Donetsk region.
More like eastward in the general direction of Rostov.
Or possibly Vladivostok. 🙂
If they can actually get their units out of the Izyum area they’ll be bloody lucky.
Some reports indicate that in addition to the massive over-commitment to Kherson, Russians also attempted a sizable attempt to do another “artillery grind” southward against Ukraine lines east of Kramatorsk.
Perhaps to force Ukraine to move forces? Or as a “spoiler”?
But ran into the sand, with serious losses, against Ukrainian defences.
And to do this op. they had weakened other areas nearby, used up local shell stocks.
One thing is clear once again: Russian air operations are a pile of pants.
Also, as I said back in March: Ukraine is likely doing some very clever work around distributed logistics and such. And/or Russian army information/decision flows are utterly borked.
Because either Russia did not spot the Ukraine build up E of Kharkiv; or for some Russianish reason just ignored it.
Their mil-bloggers noticed it, so the Russians noticed. Best guess is the powers that be (shortly “were”, I reckon) dismissed the Ukrainian force deployments west of the Isium front as a ruse designed to take their own troops away from the “real” front down south. So it goes.
I can’t say I’ve been paying much attention to reports of Russian reports.
A lot of the time I’ve not followed all the reporting of daily actions, materiel losses etc.
Just the big picture bits: Russia overextended in February, and despite a reported “focus” on Donbas in late Spring, continued to be overextended.
But what I’ve been piecing together over the last three days indicates to me that the Russians didn’t get the scale of what Ukraine was cooking up SE of Kharkiv.
So wrote it off as a “feint”?
And decided to press on with their push south of Lyman.
My word: latest update reporting Ukraine has taken Lyman!
It looks a bit like they are rolling up the whole NE front.
Oh, and the Dnipro bridges, which were pretty major.
And the Crimean base hits, which may been minor in some regards, but still hilarious.
@Michael Reynolds: “What strikes me is just how bad Russian intelligence is. In the age of satellites and drones and presumably at least some human intel, how in the hell do you miss that northern offensive?”
You have two reports.
You think about what the pavement would feel like at 96 feet/second.
The shredder burrs….
You have one report.
@Barry: Russian intelligence is “bad” because Russian intel is forced to lie, thanks to Putin’s delusions and insistence on murdering his critics. They aren’t allow to give good intelligence. Because good is by definition accurate and truthful.
Putin and Russian culture celebrating dishonesty are at fault. Like everything else regarding this debacle.
This conflict is rather unique in the phenomena of Russian military experts, well connected with the serving forces, speaking publicly. They were significantly more open before Putin put some brakes on them about 2 months ago too. Putin got fed up with his nattering nabobs of negativism and threatened their access, so from there on most played an interesting game, you had to read a bit between the lines to get the real situation but it was still there.
The enemy’s propaganda is, btw, always worth paying attention to. The information is gleaned from knowing thereby what they want people to think which is an insight on what they are thinking.
Military Summary has been predicting this northern offensive for a couple weeks now, and being Putin’s favorite, his access to the real stuff is assured. There is no doubt in my mind the Russian military was keeping a close eye on the troubling nature of the deployments east of Kharkiv. They had to have dismissed it as a ruse.
What the bloggers assumed, largely, was it would bite on granite. Prepared defensive positions. What the bloggers missed was the Russians had stripped the region of nearly all artillery for use elsewhere. It appears the Russian military was aware of that, that those defensive positions were most definitely a ruse, and knew they would have no choice but to fall back…far and fast. The speed of the Russian withdrawal shows they had gamed it it out as a contingency.
@dazedandconfused: The speed of the Russian withdrawal shows they had gamed it it out as a contingency.