On Wednesday, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited the recently liberated city of Izyum and thanked Ukrainian forces there for the excellent work they did in liberating not only that city, but the entire Kharkiv Oblast in a counter-offensive that shocked the Russian military and much of the world.
Seeing Zelensky once again on the streets, talking to soldiers, and even walking around in territory that was under Russian occupation a few days ago is a stark contrast to Vladimir Putin’s isolation and secrecy. Putin does not have a table long enough to sit anywhere within the war zone he has created.
Whatever happens to Zelensky after the war, there seems no doubt that he is the man Ukraine needs right now. Still, as one tweet pointed out, no matter how satisfying the Ukrainian president’s visit to Izyum may have been, there is at least one Ukrainian soldier who had a better day.
As Zelensky was talking to soldiers and meeting some of the shell-shocked residents of the city that had been under Russian occupation for months, Russian soldiers were still either surrendering or being captured within a few kilometers of his location. There were reports of
The term “mopping up” has a particularly serious meaning in military parlance. It usually consists of the last scattered forces of the enemy being eliminated as the victors march to occupy an area. There is no doubt that some of this moping is still going on in Kharkiv Oblast today as Ukraine works to consolidate and protect the gains made over the past week. However, with Russia withdrawing so quickly and from such a large area that Ukraine has yet to officially liberate it all, it is also to be expected that many Russian forces are simply left behind.
This is especially true of the Russian forces on the former front line in the areas south and west of Izyum. At one moment they were one of the most important units, holding the line of attack of Russia. Next they were in the backwaters, several kilometers from the action. Many of these units have attempted to cross suddenly lost territory to Russian positions in Luhansk. Others simply put down their rifles and put their hands up.
Some of these Russian soldiers are being captured trying to reach the much-changed front line. Some are surrendering from place to place. Some are trying to hold out in bunkers or buildings. It is Not working well For that final group.
In any case, the total victory in Kharkiv is so great that it left Ukraine with a lot of work to do in terms of reaching every liberated village and town, assessing local conditions, helping civilians who had been trapped behind enemy lines for so long. has left , dealing with sick and wounded civilians, restoring infrastructure destroyed by Russia, sorting through vast stockpiles of ammunition and other materials left behind by fleeing Russian forces, and dealing with thousands of Russian prisoners. It’s … a lot.
All of this could give Russia some head start on digging in the next line of defense, except no one knows where that will be. Some Russian forces appear to have positioned themselves across the Oskill River, a natural defensive position. On the other hand, Russian statements indicate that they were moving out of Kharkiv Oblast, and that Oskil is not the border between Kharkiv and Luhansk. The actual Luhansk border is nothing more than a line on a map marked on the ground by a stream here, a road there, nothing elsewhere; Not exactly a good place to lay a 100-kilometer-long defensive line. But on the other hand … you get the idea. Ukrainian forces are already in at least two places across the Oskil, which makes the river not such a large boundary.
On Wednesday, there are reports that Ukrainian forces have crossed the river in two new places: near Borova and Kivsharyvka. How this crossing took place is not clear as there are no reports of intact bridges at any location. Yet, it is not part of the kilometer-wide Dnipro or Oskil that has been turned into a reservoir by dams. Ukraine may have brought bridging equipment. They may have helped with bridging equipment left behind by the Russians.
No matter how it happens, the Oskil River appears to be a formidable barrier, and Russian forces trying to establish on the east side of the river are likely to be overwhelmed by Ukrainian forces moving north or south along the east bank. There is a danger of Already on Tuesday, across the border in Luhansk Oblast, at Kuzemyvka, a Russian convoy was hit by Ukrainian troops, although it is unclear whether this represented a significant force on the Ukrainian side or some scouts.
All of this is because reports of Russian troops withdrawing from places like Swatov may or may not be true, but are easy to believe. If the Ukrainian forces are across Oskil, there is not much in their way.
This is what makes the fight being waged by Lyman so important when it comes to extending Ukraine’s countervailing benefits. Zelensky also mentioned Lyman as the next target for liberation. Not only does the city offer a base that will open up the region of both Oskil and Siverskyi Donets, it is connected by rail and highway to other locations captured in Ukraine’s counteroffensive. Capturing a Lyman would allow rapid movement of troops and supplies. Also this would be another very significant reversal for Russia within Luhansk Oblast.
In the hours following the liberation of Izyum, there were many announcements that Lyman had already been liberated by Ukrainian forces. (I also left this news in the headline prematurely.) What became clear the next day was that while Ukrainian forces had crossed the Siverskyi Donets and retaken the southern suburbs, the city was actually were on the edge of
As Russian forces withdrew from Izyum, it now appears that a significant number moved into Izyum, perhaps knowing that Ukrainian forces were just outside the city. So instead of having an easy time taking out a small garrison in a lightly held city, Ukraine seems in a lyman’s position to face a city where Russia has a large force—though that force is so small. could not be organized or well-entrenched in Lyman for a more extended period.
Both Russia and Ukraine appear to be sending additional forces into Lehman as fast as they can get them down the highway. Unlike Izyum, this could turn out to be an extended battle within a city, which would be a severe test of Ukraine’s new weapons, training and tactics. The shaky video shows what appears to be a line of vehicles on foot from the Ukrainian side, so Ukraine appears ready to take the fight to the streets. So … not exactly a break after all the action in Kharkiv.
In the area around Lyman, there now appears to be no sign that Ukrainian forces are pressing into Lisychensk or appearing in Severodonetsk. This was likely a combination of the initial visibility of Ukrainian forces in those areas keeping the enthusiasm and Russian terror levels high as the Kharkiv counteroffensive was a major success. Still, I would wait a day or two before redoing the area back.
One place I switched to today was Cremina. After local authorities announced on Tuesday that the town was free of Russian forces, they raised the Ukrainian flag and laid out a welcome mat for Ukrainian troops. Unfortunately, overnight the Russians returned, tore down the flag, and shut down the local internet. It is unclear whether any troops are now stationed in the town.
Oskill also “disputed” Russian claims that they still have forces in the town. However, Ukraine appears to be in full control of the surrounding region, and it is unclear how seriously to take Russia’s statements.
From Ukrainian sources on Telegram, there are also reports that troops have moved out of the northeast. Sviatohirsk, with the intention of bypassing Lyman and hitting targets deep inside Luhansk. Currently there is no confirmation of this.
Meanwhile, in Kherson, reports are mixed. There continue to be claims of Russian forces negotiating a wholesale surrender or withdrawal, as well as claims that Russia is abandoning front-line positions and retreating closer to the city. At the same time, there are reports that Russia is preparing sites on both the east and west sides of the Dnipro River for the possible installation of a new pontoon bridge. Expect a deeper look at this area in the next update.
No one is jealous of Oryx this week as counting Russian equipment captured or destroyed in Kharkiv seems like a never-ending task.