As kos talked about this morning, after a couple of weeks in which Ukrainian troops seemed to be catching their breath, the Kharkiv counteroffensive is back in business. On Thursday, Ukrainian forces captured the town of Vesele, which had not only been a long-time hard point for the Russian line, but was also one of the sites from which Russia was firing artillery into the city of Kharkiv.
In addition to Vesele, Ukraine captured a pair of small villages nearby and has begun to press toward the town of Neskuchne to the north. If Ukraine can take this town, they’ll help end what has become Russia’s favorite hobby in the area—making runs at retaking the town of Ternova.
Immediately following the capture of Vesele, it seemed that Russia was trying to counter this move by pushing south out of Lyptsi, but a day later the flow of traffic seems to have reversed. Along with reports that Ukraine already holds the east and south of Lyptsi, more forces seem to be pushing toward that area and spreading to the west to hammer Russian positions at the village of Velyki Prokhody. All of this should help reduce the daily rain of no-reason-but-hate shells that Russia has been lobbing into the city.
Meanwhile, on the eastern edge of this theater, Rubizhne continues to be in dispute. So does everything on the east side of the river. Those east side locations aren’t so much in dispute in the “active combat” sense as in the “very little news” sense. However, there has been artillery fire all the way up north of Buhaivka and down by Khotimlya. That seems to be enough to suggest that Ukrainian forces are still across the river and still making trouble. Telegram is not full of the terrified “they’re coming for Vovchansk!” messages that were seen on the day after Ukraine managed to get forces across from Staryi Saltiv, but there does seem to be some action going on. There even seems to be some action underway all the way up by the bridge site east of Starytsya. Though the forces involved have been described as “platoon-sized,” this is another one of those “How did Ukraine get there?” situations.
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When it comes to what’s going on in the Izyum area, the answer is: What isn’t? On the far east of Ukrainian control, the unlikely defense of Severodonetsk continues, with jaw-dropping results. On Thursday morning, the mayor of the town announced that Russia was in control of Severedonetsk. Then Ukraine launched a counterattack that included discussion of the whole city being a trap for overconfident Russian forces. By some estimates, only about 30% of the city is now under Russian control.
On Friday, Ukraine reportedly controls a majority of Severodonetsk, including the city center, and has been continuing to gain ground. In addition, Ukrainian forces have pushed Russian forces out of adjacent villages and put a large area back into dispute. The push back into the city center seems to have included forces from the Ukrainian Foreign Legion.
If things start to turn sour in Severodonestk, Ukraine can always retreat across the bridge to Lysychansk, but at the moment holding Severodonestk seems to represent great symbolic value and a genuine military win. How much damage they’re actually doing to Russian forces in this location is going to take some time to figure out, but it's never good to be the army that had been moving forward, then finds itself going into reverse.
Meanwhile on the west side of this area, around the actual town of Izyum, things are getting heated in all directions. On the east, the pocket of Ukrainian control that used to extend up to the town of Oskil has largely collapsed and Russia is now pressing in from all sides, using a reported 22 BTGs with the goal of taking out Ukrainian forces and anything that remains of Ukrainian positions on the north side of the river.
The pressure on Studenok and nearby villages is tremendous, and reports are that some Ukrainian positions in this area have been abandoned, with forces taking up positions on the south bank of the river. Many locations on the south side are bolstered not just by the natural defense of the river, but by hills that provide superior firing positions. This whole pocket between Izyum and Lyman could easily flip to Russian control in the next few days—assuming Russia can keep things together—but this would be more in the nature of a relocation of Ukrainian forces rather than a large loss.
Finally, even as Ukrainian forces continue to nip away along the south and west of the Izyum area, Russian forces have reportedly spread out into the woods west of the city, where Ukrainian forces had been staging hit and run raids for the last month, and retaken a couple of tiny crossroads. It looks like a fair amount of area, but only because there’s really next to nothing there. And Russian forces in the area don’t exactly have the best opinion of their leadership.
Honestly, there’s not a lot new to report over near Kherson. The Ukrainian forces that crossed the Inhulets River near Davydiv Brid have spread out to establish what seems to be a significant beachhead on the east side, and more forces have reportedly crossed into the area, but the focus over the last day seems to have been more about securing that position than continuing the advance. Fighting continues at both Snihurivka to the south and Vysokopillya to the north. Both of these locations were significant positions from which Russia was directing other operations in the area, so taking them could be disruptive over a large region. But it doesn’t seem to have happened yet. There is word that Ukraine has reached a series of villages and towns south of Davydiv Brid, but no definitive word that they are in control of these locations.
In the Zaporizhzhia area, that supposed new Russian column has yet to arrive. However, there has been some shelling near Verkhnia, south of Zaporizhzhia on the east bank of the Dnieper River. So maybe those 1960 vintage T-62 tanks are on their way.