There’s no way around it. In spite of taking heavy losses. In spite of an artillery exchange that at the moment seems to seriously favor Ukraine. In spite of bad organization, bad logistics, bad leadership, bad training, and bad maintenance … Russia is still putting enough forces into place in eastern Ukraine to slowly grind their way toward the objective of capturing critical sites in Luhansk and Donetsk.
Ukrainian troops have achieved fantastic things in pushing back Russian forces from Kharkiv. That effort isn’t just notable because it’s liberated dozens of Ukrainian towns and villages, but because pushing back Russian forces has greatly decreased the number of shells and missiles landing in Kharkiv each day, purely for the purpose of causing civilian casualties.
However, after an exciting and rapid initial push in the area, things have gone slowly for Ukraine. Some important locations have been recaptured in the past two weeks—especially Vesele—which help remove Russian artillery positions that were aimed at the city, but on June 14 Ukrainian troops are still engaged in trying to dislodge Russian forces from Lyptsi, a town they’ve been actively trying to capture since the first week of May.
At this point, Russian forces in the Kharkiv area are dug in to fortified positions and supported from across the border by both artillery and aircraft. Clearing Russia from that remaining strip above Kharkiv is going to take the one thing Ukraine needs everywhere—not more American artillery: more Ukrainian forces. The Ukrainian army is reportedly training as many as three new brigades using a combination of Ukrainian volunteers, foreign volunteers, and called-up reserves. Those troops, who have reportedly been trained to operate many of the new systems donated by NATO countries, are by far the most valuable resource Ukraine has to deploy.
This is the NASA FIRMS Fire Map for the Severodonetsk area as of noon ET. Those hot spots falling in areas thought to be under the control of Ukrainian forces have been recolored blue. Everything else on this map is being dropped on Russian occupation forces. As has been true for almost two weeks, not only are more shells falling on Russian-controlled territory than on the heads of Ukrainian forces, most of what is being directed at Ukrainian positions are those advanced positions in the city of Severodonetsk. When it comes to delivering counterbattery fire striking targets on the other sides of these towns and cities, Ukraine seems to be way ahead.
Still … see paragraph 1. It’s not enough. Russia has not taken all of Severodonetsk, but it has held off any attempted counterattack. Even more importantly, Russia is capturing more territory west of Severodonetsk, threatening both Ukraine’s ability to deliver those artillery shots and to safely supply, or withdraw, their forces.
Russian movements in the area seem to have proceeded in three stages. First there was the direct movement to Severodonetsk, which involved taking a string of neighboring positions, including the town of Rubizhne. When that effort became stagnated at the last step, Russia moved to capturing other positions on the occupied side of the Silverskyi Donets River. That effort has been more successful, with only the area around Ozerne and Severodonetsk still reported to be in dispute. Now Russia has begun moving down from that long-standing position at Izyum, attacking villages to the south and moving to join up with other Russian forces across the river.
All of this makes it sound a lot “cleaner” than it has been. Russia has failed over, and over, and over in efforts to capture even small positions. And a premature push to the river resulted in a triple disaster that saw whole BTGs blasted apart on the river bank. As it has everywhere since the invasion began, Russia continues to employ “probing by fire” — also known as sending troops forward until they get shot. Then sending more forces forward so you can tell where the bullets are originating. Then sending more troops forward.
In the last day, the Russian advance from Izyum has reportedly reached the town of Bohorodychne on the west bank of the river. Some reports have Russia completely occupying this town, while others have the fighting still underway. But it does seem likely that Russia is about to occupy both sides of the river in the bend that includes both Bohorodychne and Tetyanivka. Assuming they can repair or replace the bridge in this area, that would allow them to move forces across the river at a point about 20km south of their current crossing point.
All of this positions Russian to mass its forces for an assault on the positions they regard as the real prize in the area: Slovyansk and neighboring Kramatorsk.
However, there is something else going on …
The area immediately west of Izyum is heavily wooded and crisscrossed by a series of logging roads. There are only a few settlements in the area. At one point, Russia was using this area to camp some of the 20+ BTGs that were deployed around Izyum. Ukrainian forces carried out a series of hit-and-run raids, attacking these forces without the apparent goal of taking and holding territory.
Now many of those BTGs are involved in the push south, and Ukraine seems to see an opportunity. On Monday, it captured the villages of Zavody and Spivakivka in this wooded area. In just the last hour as this article was being prepared on Tuesday, reports came in that Ukrainian forces had also completely occupied the village of Prudonetske—next stop, Izyum. In addition, a pair of Russian Ka-52 helicopters were reportedly shot down in the area as Ukrainian forces pressed to the outskirts of the city. (Note: Though the reports about Prudonetske are coming from multiple sources that have proven reliable in the past, consider this largely unconfirmed; even so, I’ve updated the map to reflect this change.)
At both Kherson and Izyum, Ukrainian forces now hold a village just 10km from the city proper. However, Russia has been heavily mining and fortifying the area around Kherson. This does not seem to be true at Izyum. There are reports on Tuesday that Russia’s latest attempts at moving southeast out of Izyum have failed, with more reports of heavy losses.
Ukraine has continued to hold on in Severodonetsk, and there’s no doubt that they have absolutely mauled various Russian units attempting to occupy that city from positions across the river in Lysychansk. But what they need only slightly less than those new brigades reportedly training in the west is a big win. Retaking Izyum would be a huge win. This one looks possible.
The biggest issue is that this wooded area is by its nature difficult to hold. There are roads traveling in all directions. What made it so easy for Ukraine to stick-and-move in this area earlier could make it very difficult for them to hold it as a base for an assault on the city.
There were multiple reports on Tuesday morning that Ukrainian forces had taken the town of Kyselivka and moved rapidly down the highway to attack Russian forces at Chornobaivka, right on the outskirts of Kherson. However, most of these reports seem to track back to a single source and there is absolutely zero chatter about this on Russian Telegram accounts. While it would be nice to believe, consider this Extremely Sketchy.
Russian Stuff Blowing Up Theater
This shoot-down of a Russian helicopter is now one of two reported on Tuesday.
Wednesday, Jun 15, 2022 · 1:22:00 AM +00:00
There are reports tonight of a major advance by Ukrainian forces in the southern part of the Kherson area. If these reports are accurate, several villages and towns that were previously marked as “in dispute” are now liberated by Ukraine and the line of Russian occupation is pushed back better than a three kilometers along a line of over 20km.
Amazing if true, and being reported by several usually reliable sources. However, it’s also been disputed in at least one area of the line. Specifically there are numerous reports that Ukrainian forces had taken Kyselivka and made a rapid advance along that line. This claim is disputed by sources that are usually verified by “boots on the ground,” so I’ve left them off this map.
Consider this a “prototype” map. This whole area may look very different the next time it appears on screen.
This map moves the line of Russian control back significantly. 3-4km. It also places Olexsandrivka and Pravdyne in Ukrainian control, as well as placing a number of previously Russian-occupied settlements in dispute. Technically, if the settlement statuses are accurate, the line of Russian occupation should be even farther back. And I’ll do that … if this is confirmed in the morning.
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