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Russia’s Victory Day campaign has just run into a wall of Ukrainian forces

Russia’s Victory Day campaign has just run into a wall of Ukrainian forces

Whatever the Russian military is trying to achieve in northern Ukraine — opening a new front for a major offensive, or alternatively, creating a diversion to distract Ukrainian forces from ongoing Russian attacks in the east — it is not going well for the Russians.

Ukrainian heavy forces reinforced lightly armed regional units that fought alone in northern Kharkiv Oblast in the first hours of Russian incursions on May 9. When the new northern grouping of Russian forces tried to support the assault infantry groups with tanks, Ukrainian drones chased them down and destroyed them.

The front line stabilizes. Combat became “positional” with troops fighting over individual buildings. “The Russian offensive in the northern Kharkiv region has already stopped,” Ukrainian war correspondent Yuri Butusov said. reported on Wednesday.

What happens next depends on the Kremlin. It could move its forces from east to north and try to break through the Ukrainian lines again in order to head towards Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest and most vulnerable city, which is located just 25 miles from the Russian border.

Or it could do what it often does when it becomes impossible to seize an intact Ukrainian village, town or city — and bomb disputed settlements along the Kharkiv Oblast border region until nothing remains but rubble.

Ominously for Ukrainians, there are signs that Russian leaders may choose the latter option. Russian cluster munitions are already deployed in the town of Vovchansk, the center of the eastern axis of the Russian operation in the north.

Observers expected Russian attacks. For weeks, Russian regiments and brigades massed along the border. May 9, Victory Day in Russia – the day Russians celebrate the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II – appears to be the most likely date for the start of the Russian operation.

Despite signs of imminent attacks on the northern cities of Vovchansk and Liptsy, the General Staff in Kiev waited for the border area to be reinforced, leaving the initial defense to lightly armed regional brigades.

Ukrainian leaders likely hoped to better understand the Russians’ intentions before deploying larger forces to the north. After all, the primary goal of the Russian operation across Ukraine’s northern border would have been to move Ukrainian brigades away from the eastern battlefields in order to give Russian forces a new advantage in those sectors.

But leaving the initial defense of the territories was risky. “Territorial defense units should not be tasked with stopping the enemy’s main advance,” according to Ukrainian analysis group Frontiliens Insight. compressed.

Worse still, the regional areas appear to have dug some of their trenches in the wrong locations to block the Russian advance. “This is a result of systemic issues stemming from a lack of understanding of the brigade’s capabilities and readiness,” Frontelligence Insight said I finish.

So, when platoon-sized groups of Russian troops — dozens, not hundreds — marched across the border on D-Day, they quickly captured a series of small villages in the lightly defended “gray zone” a mile or so south of the border. Ukrainian lands retreated.

It was immediately clear that the Ukrainians had to deploy heavy forces or watch more northern settlements fall. A group of heavy brigades moved north: the 42nd and 92nd Mechanized Brigades took up positions in and around Liptsi; The 57th Mechanized Brigade and the 71st Jager Brigade entered Vovchansk.

“In the Vovchansk region, Ukrainian defenses have been significantly strengthened, and attacks on the enemy have become more effective,” Butusov said. “The Russians cannot strike our forces from their positions in the city and its surroundings.”

The situation is the same in Liptsi. “Ukrainian forces have significantly intensified their attacks on the enemy in this part of the front, and are gradually seizing the tactical initiative,” Butusov said.

In a week of intense fighting, the Ukrainians halted the Russian advance. On May 12, Russia suffered Biggest loss in one day From its broader 27-month war on Ukraine. Within 24 hours, more than 1,700 Russians were killed or wounded. according to Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.

In their struggle against more solid Ukrainian defences, Russian forces are trying something new: attacking in many small groups rather than fewer large ones. “Assault groups, usually platoon-sized, engage a stronghold before merging with other offensive groups,” Ukrainian Center for Defense Strategies said. to explain. “This reduces losses while approaching the target but slows the pace of progress.”

But a simple change in infantry tactics could not fundamentally change the dynamics along the northern front. With the forces they have –It is said 30,000 soldiers With a dozen or so regiments and brigades, the Russians might not be able to capture Vovchansk and Liptsy, let alone march to Kharkiv.

The Kremlin’s failure to send more troops to the Northern Group of Forces may reveal the ultimate goal of Operation D-Day. “Despite current developments, the northern offensive looks very clear, and it appears that Russia does not have enough forces there so that it cannot be anything other than a major diversion aimed at forcing Ukraine to deploy its limited reserves,” Finnish analyst Juni Askola said. books.

But it is not clear that the Ukrainians have redeployed enough forces from east to north to weaken their defenses on the key eastern battlefields around Avdiivka and Chasev Yar.

“If the goal was to bring about conversion, it achieved a certain degree of success, as units and resources were transferred to the Kharkiv region that had previously been absent,” Askola concluded.

“The extent of this success will depend on the number of additional units that must be deployed,” Ascola added. For days now, the number of additional Ukrainian units heading north appears to be…zero.

The northern campaign is not over yet. Butusov stressed that the Russians “have not yet been defeated, and the violent battles for destruction continue.” It is feared that the Russians may choose to simply destroy Vovchansk and Liptsy with artillery and bombs rather than continue trying to capture them through costly ground attacks that may not distract Ukrainian forces to the extent that the Kremlin had hoped.

sources:

1. Yuri Butusov: https://t.me/ButusovPlus/10315

2. Forward intelligence view: https://twitter.com/Tatarigami_UA/status/1790086956073750575

3. Center for Defense Strategies: https://cdsdailybrief.substack.com/p/russias-war-on-ukraine-150524

4. BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/articles/c72p0xx410xo

5. Johnny Ascola: https://twitter.com/ArturRehi/status/1790751743887696088

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