Right now, Ukraine seems to be involved in a combination counteroffensive giant trap in the Kherson oblast. By simultaneously attacking Russia’s points of access in the bridges at Kherson and Nova Kakhovka, as well as a series of bridges over the Inhulets River in the middle of the oblast, Ukraine seems to be forcing Russia to scramble to come up with ways to maintain supply lines, while simultaneously encouraging Russia to reinforce their westernmost flank. And if the intent was to bring in more Russian forces, it seems to be working. Some reports now have the number of battalion tactic groups in Kherson at 25, up from 15 a few weeks ago.
Meanwhile, the rest of the front still stretches to Kharkiv and beyond, and while neither Russia nor Ukraine seems to have made huge gains in the last week, that doesn’t mean things have been quiet. Far from it. Right now, Ukraine is reportedly advancing at multiple points east of Zaporzhzhia, Russia is making yet another push in the sliver of land east of Bakhmut, there’s action from both sides around Kharkiv, and … weirdness in some areas. Not only are there reports that Russia has pulled out of the towns of Yaremivka and Studenok near Izyum, there are now reports that Russia has withdrawn from a pair of towns in the south.
Before looking at at the details, open this image in another tab for a good view. Now locate Severdonetsk and Popasna. Then recall that at the start of this thing, both those towns were within a a kilometer of the front. That small slice, from Severodonetsk over to around Bilohorivka is all that has changed in the east. Now look how far it is to Russia’s actual goals in the area — Slovyansk and Kramatorsk.
Speaking of Bilohorivka, it appears to be under Russian control again after changing hands multiple times. Further south, Russia has reportedly taken control of Berestove after a prolonged period of fighting. And at the southern end of this map, Russia has also advanced to Vershyna, southeast of Bakhmut. (Note: Shortly after this map was made reports came out that Russia has occupied Pokrovske, which on this map is the blue marker immediately west of Pylypchatyne.)
Some of Ukraine’s advances are off the southern edge of this map, where they’ve taken control of a reported half-dozen formerly disputed towns and villages. But the more important area may be the one in the northwest corner of this map, where Russian forces have withdrawn from occupied towns on both sides of the river and apparently abandoned their fight to gain full control of Bohorodychne. Both Bohorodychne and Dolyna are now back in Ukrainian control, and Ukraine’s forces there have reportedly repelled a pair of Russian attempts to get back into the area from the west.
Unless the situation in the west changes quickly, it seems to represent a collapse of Russia’s effort to encircle the Slovyansk and Kramatorsk area. Russia is continuing to push toward that Siversk / Bakhmut line on the east, but that seems to be the only place they’re moving aggressively.
The clearest, and oddest, of Russia’s change in direction is the apparent abandonment of positions at Yaremivka and Studenok. The pontoon bridge that had earlier been erected across the Silveskyy Donets at this location has now apparently been completely removed, leaving the next intact bridge a dozen kilometers to the north, below the dam at Oskil.
Ukraine is now fully in possession of Bohorodychne, a location that Russia struggled for weeks to take — and the site of some major equipment losses. Ukrainian forces are moving to occupy the surrendered area, rolling back months of slow advances on the part of Russia.
Ukraine has also gained ground to the west at Brazhkivka, liberating that town along with a smaller village. That area may be the site of this video.
On the southern lines between Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine continues to press in a pair of areas, while Russia is also making offensive moves. This is also the scene of the second location where Russian forces seem to have gone inexplicably missing.
Ukrainian forces are reportedly pressing southward in the area south of Hulyaipole, and in the pocket south of Pavlivka. Meanwhile, Russia is most active on the eastern edge of the map, especially in pressing into the fortified suburbs around Donetsk and attempting to break the Ukrainian line near Pisky.
But the strange report on Sunday is that Russian forces at the southern end of this map, around Tokmak and Chernihivka, have gone the way of forces in Studenok. These were previously the scene of significant Russian occupations, which now seem to have gone completely missing. These forces may have been hustled to Kherson, repositioned to address the attempted counteroffensives in the area, or it may mean that Russia simply felt these areas were far enough behind the lines that they didn’t need troops to keep them under control as, unlike the area across the river from Studenok, these towns aren’t in close proximity to current fighting.
An optimistic view takes this as a sign that Russia’s occupied areas have been hollowed out in the effort to back up Kherson while maintaining the fight for the remainder of the Donbas. If Russia’s control really is as fragile as a Fabergé egg, that should soon become apparent.
On Saturday, a Ukrainian drone reportedly struck the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol.
But as Ukraine struck at military targets, Russia continued to strike at anything but.
Interesting to see Russian forces hustled out of Tokmak to reinforce Kherson area. I wrote about how critically important Tokmak is, as it hosts the only rail line connecting Donbas and eastern Ukraine to Kherson oblast. It will undoubtedly feature heavily in any Ukrainian effort to retake its lost territories. If Ukraine can hold Tokmak and cut off the two bridges from Crimea, every Russian troop between Tokmak, Kherson, and up toward Kryvyi Rih will be effectively cut off. Helicopters won’t resupply thirsty artillery guns