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Russia’s VE Day campaign just ran into a wall of Ukrainian troops

Whatever the Russian military is trying to accomplish in northern Ukraine – opening a new front for a major offensive or, alternatively, creating a diversion to draw Ukrainian troops away from ongoing Russian offensives in the east – it will not not going very well for the Russians.

Heavy Ukrainian forces reinforced lightly armed territorial units fighting alone in northern Kharkiv Oblast in the early hours of Russian incursions on May 9. When the new group of Russian forces from the north tried to reinforce the infantry assault groups with tanks, the Ukrainian drones chased them down. and destroyed them.

The front line is stabilizing. Combat becomes “positional” as troops fight over individual buildings. “The Russian offensive in the northern Kharkiv region has actually stopped,” Ukrainian war correspondent Yuriy Butusov reported on Wednesday.

What happens next depends on the Kremlin. It could move its forces from the east to the north and try again to break through the Ukrainian lines in order to move towards Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest and most vulnerable city, just 40 kilometers from the Russian border. .

Or it could do what it often does when it becomes impossible to capture an intact Ukrainian village, town, or city: and bomb contested settlements along the Kharkiv Oblast border zone until that there are nothing left but ruins.

Unfortunately, for Ukrainians, there are signs that Russian leaders may choose the latter option. Russian cluster munitions already dot the town of Vovchansk, the easternmost axis of the Russian operation in the north.

Observers anticipated Russian attacks. For weeks, Russian regiments and brigades had been massing along the border. May 9, Victory Day in Russia – the day Russians celebrate the defeat of the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany in World War II – seemed to be the most likely date for the start of a Russian operation .

Despite signs of imminent attacks on the northern towns of Vovchansk and Lyptsi, the general staff in kyiv waited to reinforce the border area, leaving initial defense to lightly armed territorial brigades.

It is possible that Ukrainian commanders hoped to better understand Russian intentions before deploying heavier forces to the north. After all, it was possible that the goal of a Russian operation across Ukraine’s northern border was to draw Ukrainian brigades away from the battlefields to the east in order to give Russian forces a new advantage in these sectors.

But leaving the initial defense to the territorials was risky. “Territorial defense units should not have the mission of stopping the advance of the main enemy,” said the Ukrainian analysis group Frontelligence Insight. stress.

Worse still, it appears that the Territorials dug some of their trenches in the wrong places to block the Russian advance. “This is the result of systematic problems resulting from a lack of understanding of brigade capabilities and readiness,” Frontelligence Insight concluded.

So when platoon-sized groups of Russian troops – dozens, not hundreds – crossed the border on Victory Day, they quickly seized a string of small villages in the slightly “gray zone.” protected, about a kilometer south of the border. The Ukrainian territories withdrew.

It immediately became clear that the Ukrainians would have to deploy heavy forces or watch the settlements further north fall. A group of heavy brigades rolls north: the 42nd and 92nd Mechanized Brigades take up positions in and around Lyptsi; the 57th Motorized Brigade and the 71st Jager Brigade enter Vovchansk.

“In the Vovchansk region, Ukrainian defenses have been significantly strengthened and attacks on the enemy are becoming more effective,” Butusov reported. “The Russians cannot eliminate our troops from their positions in the city and its surroundings.”

The situation is the same in Lyptsi. “Ukrainian troops have significantly intensified their attacks on the enemy on this part of the front and are gradually taking the tactical initiative,” Butusov said.

In a week of heavy fighting, the Ukrainians stopped the Russian advance. On May 12, Russia suffered its largest single-day loss in its 27-month war with Ukraine. In 24 hours, more than 1,700 Russians were killed or injured. according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.

Facing stiffer Ukrainian defenses, Russian forces are trying something new: attacking in several small groups rather than in smaller, larger groups. “Assault groups, usually platoon-sized, engage in a stronghold before merging with other assault groups,” explained the Ukrainian Center for Defense Strategies. “This reduces casualties when approaching the target but slows the rate of advance.”

But a small change in infantry tactics cannot fundamentally alter the dynamic along the northern front. With the forces they have – around 30,000 troops spread across a dozen regiments and brigades – the Russians may not be able to capture Vovchansk and Lyptsi, let alone march on Kharkiv.

The fact that the Kremlin did not send more troops to the northern grouping of forces could reveal the ultimate goal of the Victory Day operation. “Despite current developments, the northern attack appears too telegraphed and Russia does not have sufficient troops for it to be anything other than a major diversion aimed at forcing Ukraine to deploy its limited reserves ” said Finnish analyst Joni Askola. wrote.

But it is unclear whether the Ukrainians have redeployed enough troops from the east to the north to weaken their defenses in the main eastern battlefields around Avdiivka and Chasiv Yar.

“If the goal was to create a diversion, it achieved some success,” Askola concluded, “because units and resources were transferred to Kharkiv Oblast that were previously absent.”

But “the extent of this success will depend on the number of additional units that need to be deployed,” Askola added. And for the past few days, the number of additional Ukrainian units heading north has apparently been…zero.

The northern campaign is not over. The Russians “are not yet defeated,” Butussov stressed, “and heavy battles of destruction continue.” It is frightening that the Russians might choose to simply demolish Vovchansk and Lyptsi with artillery and bombs rather than continuing to attempt to capture them with costly ground assaults that may not divert Ukrainian forces into the measure hoped for by the Kremlin.

Sources:

1. Yuri Butusov: https://t.me/ButusovPlus/10315

2. Frontelligence Overview: https://twitter.com/Tatarigami_UA/status/1790086956073750575

3. Center for Defense Strategies: https://cdsdailybrief.substack.com/p/russias-war-on-ukraine-150524

4. BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/articles/c72p0xx410xo

5. Joni Askola: https://twitter.com/ArturRehi/status/1790751743887696088



News Source : www.forbes.com
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