The Ukrainian Armed Forces have since retaken several portions of Kharkiv from the Russian forces as they continue to withdraw from the region. As this was happening, the Ukrainians launched a counteroffensive toward Izyum to help the efforts to prevent a Russian encirclement and continue the counteroffensive to destroy Russian supply lines.
“Izium [Izyum] direction remains the hottest spot. Our Armed Forces have launched a counter-offensive, the enemy retreats in some directions. And this is the result of the resolve of our Armed Forces. We will win,” Head of the Kharkiv Regional Military Administration Oleh Synehubov said.
These counteroffensives come simultaneously with reports that Ukrainian forces have reached the Russo-Ukrainian border, a definitive sign that the Russians are falling back amid their disastrous invasion of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Special Operations Forces unit Kraken has released a video of their assault on the Russian-held village of Pitomnik, in the Kharkiv region on May 11th.
After hours of heavy fighting, they liberated the village and threw the Russians back.
— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) May 15, 2022
However, to be fair, even Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the Russians were still trying to come out as “somewhat victorious,” with various analysts stating that the war is a stalemate, an achievement for Ukraine as they were previously predicted to lose the war swiftly three months ago.
“The Russians aren’t winning, and the Ukrainians aren’t winning, and we’re at a bit of a stalemate,” Army Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier reported to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Despite this, Zelensky was still very much thankful for the sacrifice his troops were making to push the Russians away from their territory gradually.
“I am grateful to all our defenders who are holding the line and demonstrating truly superhuman strength to drive out the army of invaders,” he said. “No one today can predict how long this war will last.”
He also announced that the Ukrainian Armed Forces were preparing for more counteroffensives aimed toward movement to Southern Ukraine:
“We are preparing for new attempts by Russia to attack in Donbas, to somehow intensify its movement in the south of Ukraine,” Zelensky stated. “The occupiers still do not want to admit that they are in a dead-end, and their so-called ‘special operation’ has already gone bankrupt,” he added.
As of writing, the Ukrainian forces have continued their counteroffensives to disrupt Russian supply lines to the Donbas region in an attempt to cut off Russian strongholds in the region. It is important to note that the forward headquarters of the Russian forces is located in Izyum, so taking Izyum back from Russian control would be devastating for their operations in the east. Reports have also surfaced that railroads in Vovchansk and Kupiansk in Russian-controlled areas are ripe for Ukrainian counteroffensives to make Russian supply efforts difficult. This would also cut supply to Izyum, making them very vulnerable if the Ukrainians are able to wait them out till their supplies dry out. Intel gained from Russia also indicated that Ukrainian forces are moving in on Izyum from the north, gaining ground toward Izyum with an unknown number of troops.
“This Ukrainian operation is developing into a successful, broader counteroffensive – as opposed to the more localized counterattacks that Ukrainian forces have conducted throughout the war to secure key terrain and disrupt Russian offensive operations,” the Institute for the Study of War said.
With these counteroffensives now in play, the Russians have been observed to be entering a new phase of the war: It’s now in the defensive position, trying to defend and retain control of areas they have previously obtained. If Ukraine is successful with these offensives, it may be the case that they could even move further forward into the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics” to gain back control.
In response to these Russian reports, Ukrainian Presidential Adviser Oleksiy Arestovich told a Ukrainian television show that the Russians were placing troops that retreated from Kharkiv toward the direction of Donbas. British intelligence also confirms this report. According to them, Russia plans to deploy these troops to the eastern bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, a river infamous for being the site where an entire Russian armored column had been destroyed a few days earlier. Once deployed, these Russian troops will form a “block force” to protect Russia’s forces on its western flank and their main supply routes.
They also reported that the Russian offensive in Donbas had lost significant momentum and was already behind schedule due to Ukrainian defenses. They have also failed to achieve any “substantial” territorial gains and had a high level of attrition all throughout. Perhaps the harshest reality for the Russians to face is that the British Defense Intelligence claims that Russia may have suffered casualties as high as 1/3 of their ground combat force committed to Ukraine last February. These reports come after the Ukrainians destroyed an entire Russian armored column in Siverskyi Donets River in one of the worst tactical failures of the Russian forces thus far.
“Russian forces are increasingly constrained by degraded enabling capabilities, continued low morale, and reduced combat effectiveness. Many of these capabilities cannot be quickly replaced or reconstituted and are likely to continue to hinder Russian operations in Ukraine. Under the current conditions, Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days.”