Three days ago, Shevchenkove was 30km from the front line. Yesterday, locals repainted the towns sign in the colors of the Ukrainian flag as members of the Ukrainian armed forces posed for a picture at the entrance to the town … which is now 30km behind the front in the other direction. The movement of Ukrainian forces in the Kharkiv counteroffensive has been incredible, with the number of villages being reported as under Ukrainian control seeming to almost double by the hour.
As of this Friday afternoon (5AM ET, 1PM Kyiv) Ukrainian soldiers have passed the entrance to Kupyansk, and fighting is going on in the city. It’s such an incredible advance that even Ukraine’s staunchest supporters seemed gobsmacked. Meanwhile, Russian claims that all is well are drawing a heated reply from the Russians on the firing line.
The supply line to Izyum from Kupyansk has already been cut off, and if Russian sources are to be believed, Ukrainian troops have also moved down the highway that fronts the Siverskyi Donets River to attack the location of the bridge at Senkove. All of this has the Russian administrator in Izyum begging for assistance. In that begging, he says, “Reserves are urgently needed in Izyum. Reserves are going to Kupyansk, no reserves are seen in Izyum yet.” Despite this, as kos noted yesterday, Russia has continued to launch absolutely fruitless attacks out of Izyum on locations such as Dovhen'ke and Brazhkivka. Rather than pulling in their troops and planning for a defense of the city, they’re continuing to lose men in multiple failed attempts to capture tiny villages to the south—villages that, even if successfully captured, would not mean a thing to Russia’s strategic goals. It’s madness.
As of Thursday evening, Russian Telegram accounts are almost useless for tracking the activities of the fight in Kharkiv Oblast. Where are Ukrainian forces? Everywhere! After all, it’s much easier to explain why you are running away if you can claim there are 9,000 troops and a dozen tanks at your back.
Is Ukraine actually attacking Senkove at the same time it’s hitting Kupyansk? Has it already taken places as far to the south of the main advance as Senok and Chornobaivka? Honestly, there’s no way to tell. Russian accounts say they are gone. Russian milbloggers are putting these locations on maps. But then, Russian sources may be engaged in labeling locations as liberated by Ukraine so that they can come back tomorrow and label them as “recaptured” by Russia.
For this morning’s map, I’ve only stamped Ukraine blue on those villages and towns where there’s at least some level of confirmation from Ukrainian sources. Even so, the change from Thursday is incredible. What seemed like a slender, easily broken salient 24 hours ago, now seems to have expanded to cover a broad swath of Kharkiv Oblast, spreading out almost as high as it is deep.
What may be most amazing is that all those white “in dispute” towns in the east are actually reported by Russian sources to be under Ukrainian control. The area of the blue above, the Ukrainian-held territory in this advance alone, is right at 1,000 square kilometers. The area of the yellow is another 700 square kilometers.
If it seems like there are a lot more markers on this map than yesterday, that’s because there are. Balakliya, now well over on the left of this map, was occupied by Russia on March 2. The rest of this area was swept up within the first week of the invasion. I’ve never had these locations on the map before because they were never involved in the conflict before.
There are also reports that the yellow band above the Russian-occupied area in the south is more than just a color on the map. Ukrainian forces are reportedly continuing to move down the P78 highway from Balakliya. Down the M03 past Volokhiv Yar. Down highways south from Shevchenkove.
As of early this morning (4AM ET, Noon Kyiv), there were reports that Hrushivka was fully under Ukrainian control, so theoretically, that area of blue could be further extended. If Russian sources are to be believed, it could expand all the way to the Siverskyi Donets.
However, it’s unclear at this point just what’s really going on with many of these towns. Clearly, Russia had gutted its forces in the area and had little more than a token force at many locations. Many of those “Ukraine has taken” reports on Russian Telegram surely translate to “we have run away from” with or without any sign of Ukrainian forces. Likewise, many of the towns already marked as under Ukrainian control are actually more in the “Ukraine was here” category. How much force has been left to hold places like Shevchenkove or Hrushivka is unclear. Just as when Russia was building out its Izyum salient along these same roads six months ago, there are now Russian voices shouting for reserves to rush up and strike the Ukrainian advance before it can solidify this position.
On the other hand, there are rumors that Ukrainian troops are in Oskil, east of Izyum and 15km north of where they were thought to be. That would cut off the other route of supply into the city. Russia just finished repairing the bridge at Oskil. Maybe that will turn out to be … handy.
An estimated 10,000 Russian troops are in or around Izyum, and the administrator is crying out for more. Every Russian Telegram account appears to contain a growing list of abandoned villages. Reports of UKrainian troops are suddenly everywhere. The lines from Kupyansk are already cut. Russia forces are simply being routed at every point in this counteroffensive. But … there is no panic. None at all.
This level of progress is almost certainly not sustainable. Ukraine is going to have to call a halt soon and consolidate its gains or risk overplaying its hand. But ... damn. It’s certainly going well so far.
Kharkiv is a resupply post … for Ukraine
Welcome back, boys!
So that Ukrainians will have no trouble finding ammo for all the Russian armor that was abandoned, Russians helpfully left that behind, as well.
Unconfirmed claim that Ukrainian forces have destroyed the bridge at Kupyansk.
To be clear, there’s almost no way that Ukrainian forces could actually be in Oskil, and most of these reports seem to be a misinterpretation of some badly worded messages. Unless the last U.S. shipment included transporters, there’s just no way for Ukraine to be there.
Looks like the report Mark posted above is true:
The extent to which the area of Ukrainian control is expanding is hard to grasp. Check the morning map. See that road running to the east out of Savyntsi? That’s the P78 highway.
That may be the line of combat now. There are reports of Ukrainian forces engaged all the way down at Vesele (that major crossroads to the east of Savyntsi), and more Ukrainian forces just a kilometer north of Pidvysoke, which is the point where the P78 jogs to the south.
We’re in “two maps a day doesn’t cut it” territory.
If there ever was a metaphor for Russia, this is it: