Overnight, the news out of the area around Svatove was decidedly … weird. While Russian sources appeared in a near panic about new Ukrainian advances and seemed ready to write off the whole area, one of the most trusted Ukrainian sources was reporting an advance by Russian forces that caused Ukrainian troops to withdraw from two key towns. All of that might have been easier to sort out if the reports had not been for the exact same area. And while that was going on, another report had Ukrainian forces so near Svatove they could have waved to people in town.
With the benefit of a few hours, and some input from the Ukrainian general staff, here’s how it seems to shake out. Let’s start with an overview of the whole area, which looks little different than it did on Friday, mostly because I’m still nervous about recording any of these changes.
In addition to what’s seen here, there are some reported changes up nearer to Kupyansk, but for now, I’m sticking with just what’s going on with that Svatove to Kreminna area. First, let’s deal with the reported Russian advance. On Tuesday, the Ukrainian Telegram channel DeepState reported that: “The enemy is trying to conduct active offensive actions. With the help of very active artillery training, the Katsapas [Russians] hit our forces in Makiivka and Novovodyane. The Armed Forces had to withdraw in order to preserve personnel and regroup.”
That sounds pretty dire, because the loss of these two towns would cut off the southern approach to Svatove and leave open the possibility of a Russian thrust to the south. Russian attacks in this area already forced Ukraine to reinforce positions along this road once before, and definitely slowed development of the movement toward Svatove. Here’s a closer look at the area.
You’ll notice that neither Makiivka nor Novovodyane is under Russian control here, or even in dispute. That’s because overnight, the Ukrainian general staff reported that attacks along this line had been repulsed. Instead, there were notes of Russia conducting an “active defense” further south, pushing out along the road west of Kreminna.
In addition, there were reports of active fighting near both the crossroads town of Ploshchanka and an important highway location at Chervonopopivka. Neither of which seems possible if Ukraine had been genuinely forced to withdraw from, or even hunker down in, Makiivka. As of Wednesday morning, Ukraine reportedly had fire control over this whole section of the P66 highway and was fighting to establish actual positions on the road between Kreminna and Svatove. This was also reported by Russian sources.
It’s possible that DeepState is right and everyone else is wrong, but this may also be a simple matter of timing. The DeepState report, which got amplified and repeated overnight, may have been a report of an attack that was repulsed earlier. On the other end of the spectrum, some analysts note Ukrainian shelling near Makiivka over the weekend, and conclude that this town has been in a gray area for some time. In fact, there is some contention that this whole strip of north-south road has never been secured (despite plenty of flag-waving-in-middle-of-town videos) and that Ukraine has been working around it by coming in from the west. In any case … stay tuned.
Meanwhile, up the road at Svatove, it’s clear that Ukraine is moving closer to the city, and it’s seeming to do so from multiple directions.
Let’s start with the things that seem pretty certain, then move to the hopeful, and finally to the WTH.
Earlier in the week, it was clear that Ukrainian forces were fighting their way up the highway that bends to the northeast above Kovalivka. This was confirmed not only by reports of fighting—first west, then east of Nezhuryne, but by reports from locals fleeing the area after Ukraine and Russia engaged in an artillery duel near Popivka. The last reports of fighting in this area were actually from Sunday, when Ukraine was reportedly near the highway.
Reports on Tuesday had Ukrainian forces pushing out from Stelmakhivka, fording a narrow river, and attacking Russian forces near Kolomyichykha. This puts Ukrainian forces on both sides of the highway intersection and reports on Tuesday night indicated that Ukrainian forces were making steady, though undefined, progress.
However, two other reports popped up on Tuesday night. One was that Ukraine already holds the intersection of the P07 and P66 highways west of Svatove. Considering the location of the fighting over the last week, this seems entirely possible, and there’s no real village there to check off as a “Ukraine has liberated…” position. So … maybe? It would be great if true. Not only would Ukrainian forces be less than 4km from Svatove proper, it would place them on the commanding high-ground position looking down at the small city. To most intents, the hardest part of the fighting could be behind them. However, this news should be considered very much unconfirmed at this point.
But maybe not as unconfirmed as reports that Ukraine had reached Honcharivka, just north of Svatove.
Many analysts had expected Ukraine to make an advance on Svatove from the north, by moving up from Kuzemivka to Nyzhnia Duvanka, then driving south. Russia apparently expected this, too, as the area from Kuzemivka to Kryvoshyivka, and Kuzemivka to Nauholne was reportedly heavily reinforced and fortified. If Ukraine actually reached Honcharivka, presumably by plunging across the road near that fighting at Kolomyichykha, then they bypassed all of Russia’s preparations, putting themselves in a position to hit Svatove from a wholly unexpected angle.
All this is very hard to swallow without more evidence. First of all, it would mean Ukraine had already taken Kryvoshyivka and driven to the P07 highway. Then they would need to cross that highway, deal with about 4km of muddy fields without so much as a dirt road, and come down those steep slopes to reach Honcharivka. In mud season. This all seems to have an unlikelihood level of about 11 on a 1-10 scale. So … come on, Ukraine. Prove me wrong.
But the good news this morning is that you don’t need to believe the unbelievable. Because even the most conservative news has Ukrainian forces fighting their way closer to Svatove at multiple points, overcoming what were said to be three rings of reinforced Russian defenses, and getting very close to the point where Russia has little choice but to withdraw from the area.
Note: There was also one report of Ukrainian forces pushing east into Kryvoshyivka this morning, I just failed to get it on the map.
While there have been positive signs for Ukraine in the Svatove area, I can’t say the same for Kherson. Despite almost daily reports that Russia has withdrawn forces, or subbed in new recruits for experienced units, there have been no credible claims that Ukraine has liberated additional territory along the front line after pressing down from the north so rapidly in early October.
In this map, I’ve returned much of the area that was put into the disputed area after a report of advances two weeks ago back into the Russian-occupied territory. In addition, Russia appears to have driven Ukrainian forces from some villages that had been liberated earlier, including Bezimenne on the west. Fighting has also apparently reached out closer to Davydiv Brid from Russian positions at Bruskynske and Ishchenka.
There have been just truckloads of videos of truckloads of Ukrainian soldiers driving around areas in Kherson, and a lot of thumbs up, good stuff is happening, but we can’t tell you reports. I want to believe them all. Hopefully, we’re all going to get pleasant surprises soon.
Multiple reports this morning at more strikes around the Antonivskyi Bridge at Kherson. These may not be aimed at the bridge itself, but at pontoon bridges, barges, or gathering points.
UPDATE: Wednesday, Nov 2, 2022 · 7:36:50 PM +00:00
How to win friends and influence people who happen to be carrying weapons.
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