Early this morning, there were a series of reports from the Svatove area that Ukrainian forces had made a sudden breakthrough north of the city and were advancing toward Nyzhnia Duvanka. The reports suggested that Ukrainian forces had pushed from the areas around Berestove and Kuzemivka, broken Russian lines, and moved “deep” into Russian-occupied territory.
There were multiple reports in the last month suggesting that when Ukraine moved for Svatove, it wouldn’t coming at the city directly, but seek to take Nyzhnia Duvanka and approach from the north, so this fits right in with those claims. However, not long after these reports first appeared, other sources denied that this breakthrough had happened. Then silence.
Right now, I can’t confirm anything, or even get good second source claims on either advance or no advance. It’s worth remembering that at least two previous “too good to be true” reports of Ukrainian advances turned out to be actually underselling the level of breakthrough. Is this another? Maybe. So, as I’ve said way too many times, stay tuned. It’s likely there’s action going on, but it may not be as hugely successful as the first reports indicated. Or maybe it was. Or maybe it’s nothing. We’ll know soon. There’s no doubt Svatove remains a target in the north, and Ukraine is advancing toward the city from multiple locations.
In the meantime, there are also reports that Ukraine may have liberated a string of towns further north, closer to the crossing at Kupyansk. Expect an update on this soon.
Is Russia withdrawing from Kherson, or is it reinforcing the area? The latest assessment from the U.K. Defense Intelligence joins other sources in coming down somewhere squarely in between. As with other sources, they indicated that Russia is, in fact, moving in new troops. But, also, as with other sources, they state that these new troops are the poorly trained, poorly equipped “mobilized reservists.” And take special note of how few troops the U.K. believes are really being sent:
“Russian officers described companies in the Kherson Sector as consisting of between six and eight men each. Companies should deploy with around 100 personnel.”
That’s not a withdrawal, but it’s certainly a long, long way from a dedicated defense.
Multiple reports on Thursday, including one from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, suggested that what Russia intends to do in Kherson is put up a token resistance, turning the mobilized troops into “great martyrs” while avoiding claims that Russia had abandoned a city that it had declared “Russia forever.” That’s not nearly as attractive as the idea that Russia was going to roll out of Kherson and leave the city to advancing Ukrainian forces, but it’s a whole lot better than claims that Russia was going to fill the Kherson region with reinforcements and fight for every inch tooth and nail.
So let’s hope that these claims, which are coming from the analysts paid to do this work, are more reliable than the reports that were flying through Telegram and Twitter two weeks ago.
On the other hand, many of those claims about what happens next in Kherson also included Russia setting up extensive artillery positions on the eastern bank of the Dnipro to “punish” the city across the river. Let’s hope they’re wrong on that part.
While waiting to find out more about what’s happening north of Svatove, here are some details on what’s happening just to the southwest.
Messages overnight identified the location of one of those battles taking place near Svatove as Popivka—a village so small (as in, about a half dozen houses) that I didn’t previously have it on the map. The area has reportedly been all but razed over the past day in an artillery duel between Ukrainian and Russian forces, showing again that no place is so remote or bucolic that it can’t be destroyed by war.
Between the slightly larger Nezhuryne and Popivka is a road. It’s the same road that runs north from that intersection east of Lyman, through Nevske and Makiivka, before angling east at this point to connect to the P66 highway. Considering current weather conditions in this part of Ukraine, it’s almost certain that Ukrainian forces are attempting to advance along this road. Popivka is just 2km from where that connection happens and just over 5km from the outskirts of Svatove. This is tantalizingly close. However, there are still reports of heavy Russian reinforcement in the area, and those fleeing from Popivka and Nezhuryne report very intense fighting.
If you want a lesson in how even a difficult image can be geolocated, it’s hard to do much better than this article from Bellingcat, in which they walk through how they started with a group photo of some people standing on the steps of a building, and worked it up to a street address in Moscow. That street address — Znamenka 19 — happens to be where the programmers behind missiles being launched into civilian neighborhoods in Ukraine are located. There, in nice clean uniforms, and a nice, undamaged building, they sit and target areas in Ukraine where pensioners, pregnant women, and 5-year-olds on their way to kindergarten are going to die.
Once again, that address is Znamenka 19. And yes, it is available on a map. With latitude and longitude.
It’s hard to imagine a more mismatched pair of well-known people than this, or two people who have used their fame in a more diametrically opposed fashion. But maybe it will happen.
As I was writing this morning, fresh Telegram and Twitter reports were indicating that Ukraine has successfully cut the P66 highway north of Kreminna, presumably in the area of Chervonopopivka and Zhytlivka, where fighting was going on Thursday.
Here’s a repeat of yesterday’s map from that area.
This could be a “two update” kind of day. Now I’m just waiting for details so I can update the maps.
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