For almost two weeks, Ukrainian troops have been able to recapture more and more suburbs of Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city. The counter-offensive now apparently goes so far that the Ukrainians are said to have worked their way up to ten kilometers from the Russian border. A Russian source told the US think tank Institute for the Study of War. A few kilometers across the border is the most important military base for supplies to the war of aggression: the Belgorod base of operations.
From there Moscow sends the convoys with soldiers and military equipment in the direction of Izyum, the gateway to the Donbass. The soldiers who were withdrawn from the greater Kyiv area after the failed capture are gathering in Belgorod in order to achieve the priority objective of aggressive warfare in eastern Ukraine.
This poses a dilemma for Russia: after all, a response in the form of a counter-attack to the Ukrainian push towards Belgorod ties up some armed forces – which are actually needed in the Donbass. The announced major offensive is already progressing slowly. A US Department of Defense official reported Tuesday evening that Russia is about two weeks behind schedule in Donbass.
As the “Institute for the Study of War” reports, Russian forces have already been withdrawn from the region south of Izyum towards the Russian border in order to put pressure on the Ukrainian counter-offensive.
As a result, the offensive from Isjum has apparently come to a standstill. Russia is making progress only in the east and south of the planned basin in the Donbass, in the area around Severodontsek and Popasna. It can be assumed that no soldiers will be withdrawn from there.
The fact that Ukrainian troops are pushing Russia’s units far back towards the border also means that Kharkiv’s suburbs are out of range for Russian artillery attacks. On the other hand, the Ukrainians should now not only be able to reach larger parts of the Russian route to Izyum – but also Belgorod itself. After all, artillery pieces have a range of up to 40 kilometers.
Ukrainian tactics seem clear: launch minor counter-offensives and tie down Russian troops to launch a major offensive in June. The Ukrainian government announced the latter last week.
And the tactic is not only working in the greater Kharkiv area: in the southern Ukrainian port of Mariupol, the soldiers trapped in the steelworks continue to tie up Russian forces. Even if the resistance there is likely to be broken in the end, Ukraine has gained time as a result. Time that puts Russia in a dilemma.