On Thursday, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken arrived in Kyiv for an unannounced visit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Blinken is there to share more good news, reportedly in the form of a new $2 billion aid package for Ukraine worth $560M in additional military equipment. Zelensky is sure to be happy about this, and right now, he has to feel very good about Ukraine’s relationship with the US and the level of support it receives from all NATO allies.
Still, it won’t come as a surprise to learn that Zelensky is a bit distracted. That’s because, right now, Ukrainian forces are embarking on the boldest advance of their counteroffensive, plunging deep into Russian-held territory, liberating town after town. , and are threatening to destroy a large chunk of Russia’s offensive power.
In daily announcements from the Ukrainian General Staff, Gen. Oleksiy Khromov was practically happy as he gave the statistics of what had happened so far — more than 20 towns and villages had been liberated in the rapid progress of electricity in Kharkiv Oblast. Ukrainian troops have now moved closer to 50 km from the P07 highway From Balaklia to Shevchenkov and beyond. The details of the operation may be under wraps, but the stream of captured Russian equipment, and the panic bubbling from Russian social media, make it clear that this is not a covert operation at all. Russian forces are in danger of losing their entire Izium force. And they know it.
It is certain that this action alone is the focus of everyone’s attention on Thursday. The blue areas on the map above represent areas that are under Ukrainian control. The yellow area is the “fog”, where the forces allegedly advanced, but the certainty of events decreases.
In the past hour (9AM ET / 4PM in Kyiv), there are reports that fighting has broken out in Hrushivka, less than 10km from Kupyansk. There are also reports that Shevchenkov has been freed and that the last Russian troops there have surrendered. Other reports put Ukrainian forces closer to 2 km from Kupiansk.
Before buying all these claims, here are several things to note:
- Russian forces in the region are sending messages of terror. Combined with lots of shooting and explosions, this is a great recipe for false reports. It’s a lot easier to explain why you’re running if you can claim to have a thousand dirty tanks at your heels.
- Supporters of Ukraine are delighted to see this massive counter-offensive. Reports that may have received a lot of scrutiny a few days ago are more likely to be passed without review.
- Both Russia and Ukraine have reasons why they might want to escalate the incident.
A static position can be boring, but it is possible to gain a lot of confidence that the lines are being drawn correctly. It’s not enough chaos; We’re getting a lot of factual information, some of which is geo-confirmed by images or backed up by statements from the Ukrainian command—but expect plenty of chaff among the wheat.
And, as always, beware of finding reports too friendly for what you want to hear. Ukraine is doing something amazing here, but they are not going to hook Moscow. Check your sources.
At the opposite end of the scale, there are reports this morning from official Russian media outlets that believe Ukrainian forces have try out to take Balaklia, but they were “thrown back.” Everything is running normally in Balaklia, and strong Russian forces have stopped all attempts to take other sites in the area. Needless to say, don’t believe him either.
Some reports now put the entire Ukrainian force advancing on Kupyansk at 9,000 men. There are also reports that Ukraine pushed into the area around Balaklia with an armored column led by 15 tanks. The incoming forces certainly looked like they knew this was their moment.
When it comes In Balaklia, reports came overnight that the Ukrainians had completely liberated the town. A number of photographs have also emerged showing Russian soldiers being captured after trying to flee the town dressed in civilian clothes. As of this writing, there are recent reports that the last Russian forces inside Balaklia have surrendered. This is yet to be fully confirmed, but it looks like the yellow circle around Balaklia is about to disappear.
Earlier reports indicated that Ukraine had left a partial force around Shevchenkov while the main force continued east. Overnight, news came of the fierce battle at Shevchenkov. The Deepstate channel on Telegram, which has been a reliable source of frontline information, reports that as of Thursday afternoon (local time) Shevchenkov is completely free. So the blue area may extend at least that far down the road.
Almost every source agrees that the main battle area is now around Harshivka. Russia has reportedly captured every unit it could find and moved them into the area while they desperately try to build a defense for Kupyansk – a place they Definitely They were not ready to fight. There are also reports that Ukraine has already begun shelling rail lines leading out of Kupyansk. Russia has announced a partial evacuation of the area.
Russia took Balaklia In March, in the first two weeks of the illegal invasion of Russia. Now Ukraine has liberated that town, and done so without mass destruction in many places taken by Russia. And yet, there is no indication that the Ukrainian advance, here or elsewhere, has been checked.
Again, this is what has likely been happening in the last few hours: Balaklia has been set free. Shevchenkov is freed. Ukrainian forces are fighting in Harshivka after sweeping 50 kilometers into Russian-held territory. The rail hub and bridge at Kupiansk are under bombardment by Ukrainian artillery. It’s a very, very good day.
Sounds like a good time for a…
Parade of destroyed and captured Russian equipment
And now, some reminders that Kharkiv is not the only place where things are happening.
There are reports that Russian troops have withdrawn from Kharkov and Chkalovsk. That red piece between the two largest areas of advance can collapse.
Here’s how Ukraine is using its Humvees:
The 155mm M777s are big guns, and they will sit well behind the lines. Their range of error is too large to be used anywhere near infantry. 105mm howitzers are awarded for offensive operations. They can be pulled by Hummers, and ride right behind the Vanguard as we are seeing in Kharkiv. Britain and Australia have already sent a bunch. US Piling up means that Ukraine has 1) asked for it, and 2) plans much more aggressive operations in the coming months.
Ukraine’s current successes in Kherson and Kharkiv will heighten donors’ enthusiasm for providing Kyiv with the weapons it needs to end the fighting. From a political perspective, the timing of this counterattack could not have been better.