They deceived the Russian army in the south and attacked in the east. The main narrative of the Ukrainian counteroffensive boils down to this sentence. It started ten days ago, but its first major success was reported on Tuesday.
Very little is known about the specific actions, the Ukrainian authorities call for “informational silence”. No video footage is coming from the main locations of the action, nor are the usual satellite photos. President Zelensky said that there is “good news” from the Kharkiv region, but that now is not the time to talk about “the populated areas where the Ukrainian flag has returned”.
Zelensky’s directive is followed, but some information still makes its way.
Here it is in a nutshell, along with the backstory:
- On August 10, Ukraine bombed Russian military base in captured Crimea. She took responsibility for the strikes only on September 7;
- On August 29, Kyiv announced that it had broken through the first line of Russian defense in the southin the Kherson region and called for “informational silence”;
- In August and in the first week of September, Russia withdrew some of its strongest units from the eastern front to strengthen its position in the south;
- On September 6, it became clear that Ukraine was advancing not to the south, but to the east;
- On September 7, it became clear some of the settlements in which Ukraine is carrying out your real counteroffensive. They are in Kharkiv region.
Abandoned jerseys in the open air
The real (so far) counteroffensive is in the area of a city in the Kharkiv region that has not yet entered the information flow: Balakleia. Nearly 28,000 people live in it. Russia took it back in March. On Wednesday, Current Time TV reported that Ukraine had entered the city from two directions and that fighting was taking place.
The Russian soldiers fled, leaving signs that they did so in panic.
Ukraine has retaken several settlements in the Balakleya region, including Verbovka, Novaya Gusarovka and Bayrak, the soldier said Taras Berezovets, who was involved in the release of Bayrak. According to him, the Ukrainians encountered resistance only while overcoming the first line of Russian defense. The Russians then fled, leaving evidence everywhere that the escape was made in panic.
Bodies of murdered Russian soldiers of Buryat origin were seen in the streets.
“The Russian army had abandoned all its equipment – weapons, shells, mines, personal hygiene items,” he says. According to him, the Russian battle flags were also abandoned, which is a sign of dishonor in the army.
He continues: “I personally entered one place [в което са живели руски войници] and I saw that everything was abandoned – jerseys were drying in the open space, they had been washed the night before. Fighters from our brigade have seen how [руски войници] in a panic, they jumped half-naked into the Severski Donets river, they swam across it”.
Berezovets spoke of abandoned Russian weapons as trophies. He is amazed not that they left them, but that they did not damage them.
“They had also abandoned their body armor, he says. The saddest thing is that they ended up without the ‘armor’ element. They were just vests. It’s a mystery to me how they thought to fight with that.”
How Russia got into a trap
The adviser to the Ukrainian presidential administration Alexey Arestovich several times he asked himself a rhetorical question – why the Russian army “took the bait” and withdrew parts of the eastern front to guard the southern one.
But not all military experts agree that this is just stupidity. Ukrainian military pilot and reserve colonel Roman Svitan believes that Ukraine has conducted an “information-psychological operation”. He defines it as “competently conducted and well dosed”.
“In the last two weeks, we paid attention only to Kherson, he says. And now the blow was delivered in Kharkiv region”.
On the YouTube channel of the journalist Julia Latynina Swithan explains not only what happened, but why he thinks it’s important. It is not only because of the unknown number of kilometers that the Ukrainian army has won back.
It is important first because of the “cascading destruction of the front line” in the area of Balakleia. There hasn’t been one so far. There have been only sporadic breakouts.
And secondly, because of the strategic importance of the place. From now on, Ukraine can easily take back Izyum, and after it Kupyansk – the railway junction through which supplies for the Russian army pass.
A look ahead. Raisins and the “triangle”
The area of Izyum has been a trap for the military since World War II. Two big rivers pass from there – Oskol and Severen Donets, which merge into one and thus form a triangle. In it, it is dangerous to find yourself in the middle of hostilities, according to Svitan. And the Russian army stayed there for several months, populating the “triangle” with disparate military personnel – from the Russian Guard, from the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic”, from reservists (Combat Army Special Reserve – BARS), from airborne troops (Airborne Forces).
Without uniform training and sufficient equipment, they tried to shell Kramatorsk and Slavyansk from there, but without success. The rivers prevented a land Russian advance.
In August, when it seemed that Ukraine was preparing for a breakthrough to the south, Russia withdrew from the “triangle” the most prepared units that were there – the airborne troops. He sends them to Kherson in the south and thus practically lays the ground in the east bare.
The Russian army does not have a reserve of soldiers, claims Alexey Arestovich. To strengthen one of her conquests, she must withdraw fighters from another territorial conquest. And the front that Moscow opened is huge – over 1000 kilometers.
“If I were Russia, I would not try to strengthen my units in [“триъгълника”], but to get them out of there,” says Swithan. He believes that Ukraine could easily take over this area and that the Russian command has understood this.