Ukraine is pushing out from Kyiv in the north, Kharkiv and Sumy in the northeast, and Mykolaiv toward Kherson in the south. Here we are in the northeast:
This looks like the assault into Trostyanets, south of Sumy. You know how amateurs talk strategy, and professionals talk logistics? Well, time to be amateurs and talk strategy. Let’s look at the map:
Trostyanets is directly south of Sumy. Below it is Okhtyrka, which Russia had tried to take over the last week and failed.
So here’s what Ukraine accomplishes by taking Trostyanets:
1) Russia is attempting to fully encircle Sumy, to lay siege in the same manner as Mariupol. By taking that city, it protects Sumy’s southern approach, which includes a highway to Kharkiv and a rail line. We haven’t talked about rail, but trains are the most efficient way to move equipment and supplies. With Trostyanets in Ukrainian hands, it looks like supply lines are clear to both Kharkiv, and, zooming out, all the way to Kyiv. Oh look at that, we talked logistics after all!
2) The second lower arrow is Okhtyrka, which has been heavily shelled and assaulted in recent weeks. Holding the town would’ve allowed Russia to consolidate its forces to Sumy’s south as they worked to encircle the city. By taking Trostyanets, Ukraine put an end to that effort. Oh hey, logistics again! Incidentally, this is where the first woman awarded Ukraine’s Hero of Ukraine award was killed. She was a combat medic killed by Russian artillery as she treated wounded soldiers.
3) Russia’s inability to take cities has led to its murderous “indiscriminately shell civilians until they surrender” strategy. It hasn’t worked out militarily, but Russia doesn’t care. It’s how they’re taking out their anger and aggression on those insolent Ukrainians. Trostyanets was the home of one of those artillery units. We saw this drone video two weeks ago:
In today’s liberation, we see both destroyed self-propelled artillery guns, and in the group-soldier shot, crates and crates of captured 155mm artillery rounds at that same railway station.
It is extremely dangerous for Ukraine to go on the offensive, leaving prepared defenses and exposing themselves to direct artillery fire, close air support, mines, and Russia’s own prepared defenses. Each target has to be chosen carefully. It’s clear that Ukraine chose this one well, blocking the encirclement of Sumy, reconnecting rail service to Kharkiv and Kyiv, and eliminating a major source of artillery misery raining death on civilians in Sumy. Now we’ll see if Russia has the juice to retake it.
The map above assumes Russian control from Trostyanets to Lebedin directly to its northwest, where it marks Lebedin as Ukrainian-held but contested. I couldn’t find any recent news about Lebedin, so I suspect that tendril of Russian control has been rolled back.
Let’s head on over to Kharkiv, where Ukraine is celebrating the liberation of Vilkhivka. It’s a small little village, has like five roads. But the battle was fierce.
It’s right on Kharkiv’s eastern border, and halts Russian efforts to connect their forces around Kharkiv, with their forces on the eastern Donbas front. Had Russia continued to make gains in eastern Kharkiv, they’d be close to full control of that bypass highway around Kharkiv, allowing for the resupply of troops besieging Izyum, and that entire defensive line that stretches out to Sievierodonetsk (surrounded on three sides), somehow still holding on.
Look how long and exposed that supply tendril is from Russian-occupied Donbas, to the forces besieging Izyum. Look how much simpler things would be if they could rush supplies directly from Russia, above Kharkiv. This is why Russia’s inability to take those border cities of Chernihiv, Sumy, and Kharkiv are so disastrous for Russia. Because, yes, logistics. Strategic decisions are always driven by logistics, because logistics are the game.
But strategy is also interesting.
More videos of the battle here and here. The battlefield is buzzing with drones, giving Ukraine’s forces intelligence into what they’re facing up the road. Ukrainian artillery takes out exposed Russian positions. Infantry speeds up the road in civilian SUVs, stopping when the drones see danger up ahead, and letting armored personnel carriers clear out defensive positions in the approach to the village. In town, Russian defenders are holed up in some office-looking building, so they bring up a tank to shell it. We then see infantry fanning out throughout the town, engaging in door-to-door urban combat. A large number of Russians surrendered.
Where was the Russian artillery, targeting Ukrainian forces massed in broad daylight? Where was Russian close-air support? Nowhere to be seen.
Down south, the Ukrainian noose is tightening around Kherson, as the villages of Tomina Balka and Snihurivka were liberated.
Just four days ago, Russia was trying to push up to the southern edge of Mykolaiv, but all of that is history as all the orange and red territory gets rolled up. The governor of Mykolaiv Oblast, Vitaliy Kim, says Russians abandoned its checkpoints in Snihurivka. Given the lack of combat video, I’m going to speculate that Russia has retreated from the entire region around Kherson to defend the city.
Russia did have its successes today. They finally captured Slavutych, directly to Chernihiv’s west, and made gains to its south. [Update: Russian troops left Slavutych after negotiations with mayor.] The city is now fully encircled, and is getting the Mariupol treatment. Russia has blown the bridge connecting Chernihiv to Kyiv, which impacts both supply routes, and the ability for refugees to escape. The situation is dire.
Hopefully Ukraine can clear that pocket to Kyiv’s northeast, then push up to relieve the siege of Chernihiv. It’s not clear that’s been driving Ukraine’s efforts on Kyiv’s eastern flank. The famous Russian caravan and troops in Bucha are obnoxious, but they’re not close enough to threaten Kyiv with artillery. They are also contained, immobile, and digging into defensive positions. Thus, other than opening up that highway from Kyiv to the country’s west, the real focus will likely be rescuing Chernihiv. Godspeed to that.
More good news:
UPDATE: Can you believe there are towns with that name in both Kharkiv Oblast, and Zaborizhzhia? Actually, there are six Poltavkas in Ukraine, and two more in Russia. Malynivka is even crazier—I counted 12-ish, and at least one more in Russia. So I originally posted the wrong ones, the ones in Sumy Oblast. So I deleted all the other stuff stuff I wrote, and here is where these towns actually are, just east of Huliapole. :
Thanks to CA Pol Junkie in the comments for catching the error.
Oryx, who has been visually cataloging every major military system destroyed, damaged, or captured in Ukraine, has their own list of what weapons Ukrainian forces need to carry victory across the line.
“To protect Ukrainian assets on the ground and make sure Russia does not attain aerial superiority, it is in dire need of more potent air defence assets. Although MANPADS (both foreign-delivered and Ukrainian) have been devastatingly effective in the conflict, longer ranged systems would allow defenders more freedom on friendly territory, in effect enabling more effective defence and counter attack. … Pragmatically, Ukraine would likely benefit most from mobile medium-to-long ranged air defences with which it is already acquainted, such as the 9K33 Osa that could be supplied by Bulgaria, Greece or Poland…”
There’s also a suggestion that Turkey could pair those bayraktar drones with the precision guided TRLG-230 rocket launcher. That way each drone could both unload its own weapons, then linger to direct fire to many more.
That’s southeast of Izyum, the top of the tendril you can see here:
“Expelled” is not the right word. They were repelled.
That sounds and looks right. If Ukraine takes Balakilla, Russian forces around Izyum are pretty close to getting cut off.