Over the weekend, Mark wrote about Ukraine’s more aggressive stance in the Kherson region, and the panic it allegedly caused with Russian troops in the advance line. Last week, I speculated that Ukraine’s major counter-offensive might actually take place further southeast from Kherson, which (along with blowing up some strategic bridges) would push Russian forces to Kherson and Melitpol (and beyond). Everywhere in between will cut off the supply lines. Speculation aside, Ukraine will eventually push wherever Russia’s lines are weakest. Limited countermeasures would probe those vulnerabilities, while HIMARS, Tochka-U ballistic missiles, and long-range Excalibur guided artillery shells systematically destroyed supply depots, rail lines, command and control centers, air defenses, and military barracks. are
Given that US intelligence estimates that Russia has committed 85% of its ground forces to the war, strengthening their valuable land bridge will be difficult. Given their menu of poor options, it may be time for them to abandon their Izyum approach. Remember Izyum?
Here’s Isium in the spotlight yesterday, July 24:
This map is from two months ago on May 24:
@war_mapper Played with some reddish-pink tint, so ignore it. Check out the cities that have actually changed hands. The most obvious difference is that Russia acquired everything north of the Siversky Donets River. It has very little to do with the Izyum Prominent, although it will fill the entire area east of it, perhaps it’s time to stop calling it “prominent”.
If you remember, Russian troops at Izyum were supposed to lead Russia’s massive siege to defend Ukraine’s entire Donbass. Remember this map?
I made a mockery of the idea on May 13 that they could sustain any such attack for hundreds of kilometers and that the Ukraine had pinched their feet. Eventually, Russia figured it out too, unable to pull out more than a few dozen kilometers. It didn’t help that instead of pushing south, Russia did the Russian thing and, well, did this:
Suffering from military ADD, Russia could not concentrate or focus its forces on a single line of attack, literally fanning out in four different directions. This push westward seemed to provoke American intelligence:
I couldn’t control myself when it came out. This may still be one of the dumbest claims I’ve seen all war. Eventually, Russia managed to get 32 km to Velika Komishuvakha (pop. 882) before running out of steam. 200 km from Dnipro (pop. 1 million). My god that was stupid. Indeed as a matter of fact stupid
Their southern approach was not very good and it wasn’t long before Russia decided that a comprehensive siege of the entire Donbas was not going to happen. Instead they decided to target the twin fortress cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. This has demonstrated as well as their attempt to advance in the direction of the Dnipro.
It took the Russians almost three months to take Dovhenke, just 27 km from Izyum. Indeed, that village is one of the few differences (south of the river) between the May 24 and July 24 maps above. The village, with a pre-war population of 800, cost the Russians countless lives and equipment and almost single-handedly halted the Russian advance to Izium. Dovehenk’e was and remains one of my pet passions, and probably my favorite story of this whole war. I would love to write an entire book about this little speck of dirt someday.
It took months for a combined force of Russian forces to take a few farmhouses in Dovenke, so please tell me how they are going to threaten Slovinsk and Kramatorsk, a combined population of about 250,000?
Embarrassingly for Russia, the Izyum approach once featured the largest concentration of Russian combat forces in all of Ukraine. Here was the estimated distribution on April 30, by Henry Sloatman On Twitter:
Izyum access was from Russia main Access and small Dovhenk’e (and A lot of things falling from that western flank of Ukrainian artillery) crushed them. Many of these forces were eventually transferred to the Severodonetsk-Popasna-Lysikansk Offensive, but nevertheless, the Izium region remained the second largest concentration of Russian forces in the country, and remains so today.
So what now? That’s a lot of Russians sitting on exposed approaches doing nothing while artillery fire continues to rain down on their positions. Ukrainian forces continued to harass Russian forces in the forest west of Izyum.
Ukraine does not need HIMARS to reach these exposed positions. Regular artillery and even anti-tank missiles are doing the trick.
Meanwhile, Ukraine is making gains in the south, and it’s clear that something big is about to happen in a few weeks. Russia is the thinnest in that southern front. Logic would dictate that Russia admit that their Slovinsk-Krametersk dream is dead and surrender this entire approach to strengthening the south. Russia can claim it’s a “good will gesture” and the pro-Russian side can counter by pretending it was all “an aberration” just like Kyiv. But that land bridge to Crimea won’t protect itself.
So it was curious to see that the Ukrainian source on Telegram on Sunday morning claimed that the Russian troops had plundered the towns of Yaremyvka and Studenok, packed up and left.
Studenok is on the south bank of the Siverskyi Donet River, Yeremyvka is on the north side. The two villages are connected by a pontoon bridge supporting the Russian offensive on Bohorodychne – another contender for “hero city” status. There is a supply rail head at Yaremivka. she is Why Pontoon Bridge? was kept there. So is Russia really giving up those positions? That would be awesome!
Below that red square, look for another Ukrainian hero city, Bohorodychne, which now plays the same role that Dovank’ played for those long months. The Ukrainian General Staff reported on Sunday, literally rolling its eyes, “The occupiers attempted to establish control by attacking the settlement of Bohorodychne. “And again, traditionally, without any success.”
Given that Bohorodychne is still actively contested, it is unlikely that the Russians abandoned the two towns that helped supply that offensive. Maybe the roving unit decided to bring some of the looted relics back home. Less likely, maybe a few units desert, looting their way out of town. But Russia is not backing down yet.
Ukrainian advances on Kherson may yet force Russia to reconsider its Izyum approach. In fact, it seems inevitable. But it has not happened yet.
How about this Russian craftsmanship?
Maybe that’s why things like this happen:
Holy crap, look at all that fire between Kherson and Melitpol! Def Mon tries to filter out the traditional agricultural burn (“false positives”), but it’s unfathomable that there are so many military targets in that population that it’s no-man’s land. It is all agricultural land.
Good to see the Donbass front so (relatively) calm. Ukrainians defending that line deserve some relief.