New Phase of the Ukraine War: 100,000 Russians gather near Kharkov, grain deal halted, Russians activate in Svatove
With Kiev’s offensive now being over a month old and with very little progress being made in terms of capturing land or making the Russian troops suffer high levels of attrition. Its fair to call this offensive a complete failure. Not only has Kiev not reached Crimea, or cut the land-bridge of Zaporozhe that connects Crimea with mainland Russia. They have gotten nowhere near the objectives claimed by Zelensky or the Ukrainian high command.
A mere 5 miles of the frontline has been captured by Ukraine, which puts it just at the front of the 1st ring of Russian defenses. Meaning, the entire month of the offensive has spent just trying to get to the 1st actual fortification line built by the Russian army.
To the surprise of nobody who has been following this war since its beginning, or anyone who has experience in the military field. The offensive was always going to stall/fail, and its simply due to the fact that not only are the Ukrainians dealing with a impregnable defensive fortifications, but with a Russian army that has been battle-hardened, beefed up with new equipment, a change in tactics, and lessons learned from last year. The Russian army in the summer of 2023 is a whole different beast compared to when they first invaded in February 2022.
But even if the Russian army lacked the organization and new equipment. It was always a tough hill to climb for the Ukrainians. They have to cross 60 miles of hostile flat territory, with layers of fortifications, mines, constantly surveyed by drones and planes. A feat which no army in recent military history has come close to doing. And the Ukrainian high command knew this, NATO intelligence relayed them information constantly via satellites, they even knew where these fortifications, anti tank ditches, and trenches were located. And on top of that, an active Russian airforce constantly dropping guided bombs and missiles onto the Ukrainian troops.
But they decided to go along with it anyways, Western commanders, and civilians alike were wondering when the Ukrainian offensive would start? Zelensky had been dropping hints about it since January of this year, promising it would be a “Spring Offensive”. Winter turned into Spring and yet, nothing was launched. Zelensky chalked this up to the slow equipment delivery of Leopard tanks and Bradley’s by the West. Many in the West even began doubting whether Kiev would launch the offensive at all.
And so, June 4th came and the counter-offensive was launched, and like I mentioned earlier, it failed to breach through the Russian defensive lines, and stagnated. We were hit with endless images of Leopard and Bradley graveyards. The one below is the first example, but there are many more and countless hours of video footage.
Even Western media is coming to the grim reality of the offensive with NYT reporting below:
In the first two weeks of Ukraine’s grueling counteroffensive, as much as 20 percent of the weaponry it sent to the battlefield was damaged or destroyed, according to American and European officials. The toll includes some of the formidable Western fighting machines — tanks and armored personnel carriers — the Ukrainians were counting on to beat back the Russians.
The startling rate of losses dropped to about 10 percent in the ensuing weeks, the officials said, preserving more of the troops and machines needed for the major offensive push that the Ukrainians say is still to come.
Some of the improvement came because Ukraine changed tactics, focusing more on wearing down the Russian forces with artillery and long-range missiles than charging into enemy minefields and fire.
This amounts to 30% equipment losses since June 5th. But this includes the equipment all together, Bradley losses for example, as much higher, some estimate as high as 45-50% of Bradley’s are destroyed or in Russian hands. A staggering amount when you realize that no Ukrainians have broken through the Russian lines with these kinds of losses. Individual brigade losses have probably been much higher. Manpower losses are usually much harder to estimate than equipment.
Ukraine still has a good chunk of equipment left. They still have not used their challenger MK2 tanks that the UK gave them earlier this year. Whether they prove as effective as the leopards, remains to be seen. I still think the Ukrainians have a trick up their sleeve.
Ukrainian Grain Deal
The problem with this, and was suspected by many Pro-Russian analysts, was that the West and Ukraine was secretly using this as a cover to ship in military hardware from returning Ukrainian ships abroad. It has not been confirmed and we do not have visual evidence, but I would not be surprised to find out if this was true or not.
Russian in July 2023 effectively ended the deal by pulling out and stating that any outside ship entering Ukrainian ports will be considered a military target and a participant in the conflict. Essentially amounting to a full blockade of Ukraine now.
Lugansk/Svatove front activated
We began receiving news from Ukrainian sources that the Russian army was active on the Svatove front. Since July 18th, the Russian army has managed to push 5 miles deep into the Ukrainian lines. It does not seem like much, but to put it into perspective, the last time we saw an advance this major, was the Kharkiv offensive almost a year ago back in September 2022 by Ukraine.
And I found this quite interesting because I read an article earlier last week that mentioned by politico.
KYIV — Russia has gathered 100,000 troops and is attempting to break through Kyiv’s defenses in the Kharkiv region, according to the Ukrainian army.
With Ukraine focusing its counteroffensive efforts on the southern front, Moscow’s forces have been probing Kyiv’s defenses in the east, in the direction of Kupiansk, Ukraine’s Army Command East spokesman Serhiy Cherevatyi said during a national telethon Monday.
According to Cherevatyi, Russia has gathered some 100,000 troops, 900 tanks and 555 artillery systems in the area.
“They are concentrating everything in order to break through our defense. Our soldiers are firmly on the defensive. They do not allow the enemy to seize the initiative,” Cherevatyi said.
Kupiansk, a city in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, was a crucial logistics hub and supply route for Russia’s invading forces in the east, until Kyiv recaptured it during its counteroffensive last fall.
And then 1 day later, the offensive further south is launched. Could this be the start of something major by Russia? Or just another probing attack meant to transfer Ukrainian reserves from Zaporozhe to Kharkiv? One cannot tell, but the pace of advance leads me to believe either Russia is going on the offensive or preparing to, or Ukraine defenses are much weaker than previously thought.
But if it is indeed the start of something big then the objectives are not hard to distinguish. Step 1 if this offensive is indeed a serious one, would be for the Russians to take control of the highlands (in the red line). From there, they can rain down artillery on the lower plains where the Ukrainians will be stationed. And then after that they would continue on to capture the Oskol river line (in blue).
They’ve almost reached the red line where the orange area is marked. But they have to move the entire front through hills and forest regions. These are areas were the Ukrainians have the most success due to their infiltration and guerilla tactics. Small groups of 20 men manage to hold the Russians back from advancing into a densely wooded area. Russians saturate the area with IFV fire, and artillery. Ukrainians rely the coordinates of the firing equipment back to their own, and counter battery is initiated.
But eventually this tactic will either run out of trees to hide behind, or ammo shortages, in which they have to abandon their positions. We cannot say for sure why the Ukrainians were unable to hold this particular advance back since information like this is heavily suppressed by the Ukrainian side as to not cause morale dropping, or to prevent the Russians from obtaining info.
In the coming days and weeks we shall see how both sides respond to each others offensives. But one cannot help but see that the war in Ukraine is entering a new phase, perhaps one that is more active and mobile. Or one that sees even more escalation like we saw with the US sending cluster bombs, Ukraine 2nd Kerch bridge attack, etc. And Russia moving Wagner troops and equipment in Belarus, close to the border with Ukraine, perhaps preparing another incursion into Kiev city.