A week after the successful reclamation of the Kharkiv Oblast region, Ukrainian soldiers are riding on the momentum to push most, if not all, Russian troops out of the border. Ukraine has confirmed another counterattack in Kharkiv has begun, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky saying this is “not the time to name the towns where the Ukrainian flag is returning.” Instead, the president, who had just been in a car accident, said they wanted to maintain a strategic advantage over the Russians.
Russian sources reported that Ukrainian Ground Forces have continued to push operations in the southwest of Izyum, near Lyman, and on the east bank of Oskil River, according to the Institute of the Study of War. With the Ukrainians banking on the high morale of their troops, the Russian forces are reportedly struggling to hold their defense lines. The Ukrainian forces could push farther east if this keeps up over the weekend.
😡 Russians have almost completely destroyed Izyum (Kharkiv region, North-East of Ukraine).
There are no houses in the town not damaged by Russian shellings – the Command of Airborne Assault Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/vNZPlhEDvX
— Toronto Television / Телебачення Торонто (@tvtoront) September 16, 2022
As Ukrainians kept on a steady pace today, they were able to expel Russian forces from Sosnove (north bank of Siverski Donets River), which is another critical location because of the settlements built by the Russians in the area. The Russian forces in Lyman, however, have reinforced their positions.
We can expect Ukrainian forces to advance across the Oskil River (northern part of Kharkiv Oblast). This is the time for them to establish bases and artillery positions throughout Kharkiv and solidify their positions in the region. It would be extremely troublesome if Kremlin pushed all of their forces to Kharkiv just to save face and reclaim the region. However, this seems unlikely as sources on the ground posted on Telegram saying Russian positions in the east of the Oskil River have been thinned out.
Ukrainian forces have also continued to disrupt Russian routes and logistics. However, they are having a hard time targeting forces in the Russian-occupied Luhansk Oblast (which covers Lysychansk, Perevalsk, Svitoldarsk, and Kadiivka). You can see this in the image below.
In a press conference, self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic Head Leonid Pasechnik said the “Ukrainian enemy” is now at their borders, but he reassured his “constituents” that they have absolutely no reason to panic. Twice.
The Ukrainian enemy is at the gates, according to Leonid Pasechnik, head of the "Luhansk People's Republic", but he insists "there's no reason to panic"
In fact he's so sure that he has to repeat himself pic.twitter.com/5XRSpQ01N0
— Francis Scarr (@francis_scarr) September 15, 2022
Moreover, Russia is attacking regions close to Zelensky’s heart. The Russians have hit a dam in Kryvyi Rih with missiles. The latest reports note that the number of missiles launched against the dam reached eight. You can see the result of the destroyed dam in the video below:
Dam in Kryvyi Rih, destroyed today by Russian missiles. The water in river Inhulets is still rising. Russian propagandists are praising the attack on critical civilian infrastructure. No doubt Russia is a terrorist state. pic.twitter.com/EijD0P0Wge
— Maria Avdeeva (@maria_avdv) September 14, 2022
With this attack, Zelensky called residents to evacuate and take shelter after the devastating attack caused extensive flooding in the region. But, Ukrainians are quick to their feet as engineers have already started repair on damaged parts of the hydraulics system that caused the Inhulets River to burst. According to foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, this Russian attack was a cowardly “act of terror,” since it seems that they are simply trying to plant fear in the locals.
As for the sentiment among Russians, even state-media late-night shows and reports have started to acknowledge their defeat in the Kharkiv region. Instead, the tone leans more on sparking discussions around the nationwide mobilization of troops. There is also an ongoing public debate on whether Russia should still move forward with the Ukrainian invasion or not. Far from their state propaganda over the months, claiming Russian forces always had the upper hand.
The problem with a full mobilization is that Russian is having a very hard time equipping or even feeding the troops it has in the field right now and their own laws would require they declare war on Ukraine to enact a full mobilization.
“On the front of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, desperate fighting continues. The past week has probably been one of the worst so far,” said Russian news anchor Dmitry Kiselev.
Withdrawing from Kharkiv direction is not easy for the Russians. This video by Rybar demonstrates a column moving on the highway at night. On the right, you can see a "burning Russian combat vehicle that was attacked by Ukrainian saboteur group". pic.twitter.com/8FigscihvT
— Dmitri (@wartranslated) September 11, 2022
Karen Shakhnasarov, director general of Russia’s most prominent film studio Mosfilm, shared the same sentiment.
“We need to admit that we suffered a defeat in the Kharkiv area. We need to admit it! Because a defeat is meaningful when you admit to it and draw conclusions from it.”
Even as state media tries to find the silver lining in the Kharkiv defeat, there are differing opinions in Russia as to whether the nation should call for an all-out, full-scale war, mobilizing citizens to the front lines.
We have news for you: two more captured BMP-1, and two more destroyed BMP-2. pic.twitter.com/jo8LGvxlvl
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) September 15, 2022
“War and special operations differ radically,” said the leader of the Communist Party, Gennady Zyuganov. “A special military operation can just be ended. But you can’t just stop a war, even if you want to. You must go all the way.”
“War only has two outcomes: either victory or defeat.”
However, Kremlin immediately denied they had this on their “agenda.”
Russia expert Mark Galeotti, an honorary professor at the UK’s UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies, said mobilization would be very unpopular for Russians.
“If you start moving to a mobilization, you’re going to get Russians in the main cities getting swept up, and you’re going to get a lot of wives, daughters, mothers and girlfriends very concerned about what’s going to happen.”