Ukrainians began the week with a stronger counteroffensive in efforts to liberate Russian-occupied territories. The ground forces have started to push in Eastern Kharkiv Oblast, gearing towards Luhansk over the weekend. Over the past 48 hours, the Ukrainians have successfully moved past Russian forces after a confrontation in Petropavlivka and Synkivka.

According to the Institute of the Study of War, the Ukrainian forces also advanced towards the Kupyansk-Petropavlivka region and had conducted reconnaissance-in-force in Zahorukivka.

Kharkiv Battle Map Draft
(Source: Institute of the Study of War)

Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) militia representative Andrei Marochko also confirmed that the Ukrainian forces had successfully crossed the Luhansk border towards an undisclosed location. However, Marochko also said the Russians attacked the Ukrainian forces as they crossed the border. But since the Ukrainians are making waves in their aggressive push, Russian sources claim that this has rattled their forces furthermore.

Then, on Monday, the Ukrainian forces conducted a blitz offensive and made gains in the south, finally recapturing the area of Lyman, a pivotal rail hub and gateway to the Donbas region. And now that they control Lysychansk, an area that Russians seized a couple months back, the Ukrainians are claiming stronger bases for them to push Russian soldiers outside the region. Aside from cutting off their supply chain, the Ukrainians are now recapturing whole Russian bases in the Donbas region. As of writing, the troops are looking to completely liberate Donbas from the Ukrainians, but of course, Russians would not take this sitting down.

Russia still controls significant parts of Eastern and Southern Ukraine, according to NY Times. These strongholds have yet to be pushed by Ukrainian infantry and missile systems. Moscow is hoping they could fight back in numbers, but the recently mobilized troops have reportedly been sent to the front lines without an ounce of training.

Analysts are wary of the speed of the Ukrainian counteroffensive because this could push Putin to call for a nuclear attack. Though SOFREP editor-in-chief Sean Spoonts noted that there is a slight possibility of Russia hitting the red button, many warn not to underestimate the Russian threats. At the same time, if Ukraine tries to push too hard, too fast, they could be spreading their forces way too thin. In an interview with New York Times with a couple of Ukrainian brigades, they claimed they had no idea where they were being deployed on a day-to-day basis. One day you could be doing surveillance, and the next, you’re being deployed to recapture villages.

The biggest trouble here is for the Ukrainian military leadership to lose their grasp on their troops and have everyone in disarray. For now, we will have to depend on Ukraine’s “Iron General” Valerri Zaluzhnyi to command the forces seamlessly.

Meanwhile, days after announcing the official annexation of large parts of Ukraine, Kremlin went on record and admitted they actually do not know where the borders are. This is another sign of Russia’s internal political turmoil, as the lower house of the Russian Parliament ratified Putin’s attempt at annexation. However, the Russian forces are already enjoying the announcement, especially after Putin gave a major speech that’s expected to rally more patriots to join in.

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Dmitri S. Peskov
Big press conference of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin (Source: Press Service of the President of Russia/Wikimedia)

However, since there are two differing voices within Russian politics, even Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri S. Peskov is having difficulty facing the media and telling them what’s happening.

“Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, in terms of the borders, we’re going to continue to consult with the population of these regions,” Peskov said in his regular conference call with reporters. “We’re going to continue to consult with the people who live in these regions.”

At the same time, Peskov is having difficulty finding new ways to explain the losses on the front lines. Russians are criticizing military commands, and even Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin’s close ally and leader of the Southern Russian Republic of Chechnya, said Kremlin is covering “incompetent” generals in the army.

“Of course, even in difficult moments, emotions should be kept out of any assessments,” Peskov said when asked about Kadyrov’s comments. “We prefer to stick to very balanced, objective assessments.”

Kadyrov probably has a point since yesterday, Lieutenant-General Roman Berdnikov has replaced Colonel-General Alexander Zhuravlev as commander of the Western Military District (WMD). This drastic shift shows another weak military leadership in the Russian forces as commanders have come and gone in a matter of months. This means there is little-to-no continuity in strategies and deployment, ultimately leaving Russian troops in the dark.

ISW also notes that this could be Putin’s way of redirecting the anger for Russian losses, especially since Lyman is a really critical region for them to lose.