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A patchwork solution Ukraine has stalled Russia’s new offensive near Kharkiv by redeploying troops from other fronts, leaving defenses elsewhere stretched thin

Source: Meduza

Like our earlier reports on the combat situation in Ukraine, this article takes stock of the recent developments on the battlefield based on open-source information. Meduza has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from the very start, and our detailed military analyses are part of our commitment to objective reporting on a war we firmly oppose.

Our map is based exclusively on open-source photos and videos, most of them posted by eyewitnesses on social media. We collect available evidence and determine its geolocation markers, adding only the photos and videos that clear this process. Meduza doesn’t try to track the conflict in real time; the data reflected on the map are typically at least 48 hours old.

Key updates as of May 28, 2024

Russia’s new offensive in the border areas of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region has stalled after the Ukrainian command deployed substantial reserves to the area. This “rescue team” appears to have been assembled by drawing individual battalions from all fronts, with groups from a dozen different brigades now engaged in the fighting. Predictably, redeploying troops in this manner has weakened defenses in other areas. In recent days, the Russian army has been launching attacks in a dozen different sectors — from Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia region to the Kupyansk front east of Kharkiv — making small but consistent gains everywhere. Moreover, the situation near Kharkiv remains dangerous for the Ukrainian army, as Russia clearly hasn’t committed all its available forces to the battle here.

The Kharkiv front

Ukrainian troops managed to stop Russian infantrymen, who were advancing north and northeast of the city of Kharkiv with almost no armored support, north of Lyptsi (a satellite town about 18.5 miles from Kharkiv) and in the city of Vovchansk. In both areas, the Ukrainian Armed Forces (AFU) are counterattacking on the flanks of Russian breakthroughs, narrowing the front of the Russian attack and preventing Russian troops from advancing further.

In Vovchansk, Russian infantrymen reached the Vovcha River, which roughly bisects the city. The Russian army has so far been unable to secure a bridgehead on the far side of the river. Most likely, Russian forces will continue pushing AFU units back across the river and then attempt to cross it. Since all bridges over the Vovcha have been destroyed, even if Russian troops do succeed in establishing a bridgehead on the other side, it will be difficult to supply it. The Russian command probably plans to cross the river not within the city, but to the west and/or east of it.

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The attack on the northern outskirts of Kharkiv still appears to be a diversionary strike mainly focused on Vovchansk. The Russian army was able to reach the first target of its diversionary blow: the outskirts of Lyptsi. However, successful AFU counterattacks have slowed the Russian advance here, and the Ukrainian army was even able to recapture part of the previously lost village of Hlyboke on the eastern flank. 

It’s probable that the Russian command will also deploy reserves to the area. So far, almost no armored vehicles have been used in the attack, and there are only individual battalions from the various brigades and regiments of the operational group “Sever” on the battlefield. Meanwhile, armored vehicles with “Sever” tactical markings have been spotted on railway platforms deep within Russia. Moreover, members of Russia’s 47th Tank Division — which isn’t part of the Leningrad Military District from which “Sever” draws its forces — have been spotted in battles near Vovchansk. Most of the 47th Tank Division, however, is still deployed in the Svatove sector.

It’s still unclear how the offensive near Kharkiv will impact other fronts or what troops the Ukrainian command can assemble to reinforce its defenses now that they’ve had to pull troops from those areas. However, the AFU was able to quickly establish a relatively strong defense near Kharkiv while preventing an immediate collapse of the front in other areas.

It appears that the Russian command might have more effectively utilized the significant reserves from the Leningrad Military District elsewhere, and the decision to open a new front was probably politically driven: Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded the creation of a “buffer zone” of occupied territory along the border, and the command is merely trying to derive military benefit from this order.

The Kupyansk and Svatove sectors

Russian forces have resumed their offensive at the juncture of Ukraine’s Kharkiv, Luhansk, and Donetsk regions, between Kupyansk (controlled by Ukraine) and Svatove (currently under Russian control).

The front line in this area was largely established by the end of 2022. Since then, Russian forces have made several attempts to launch a major offensive in the region and push the AFU across the Oskil River, but they haven’t achieved anything beyond minor gains.

The resumed offensive began with another series of localized gains: Russian troops have advanced in at least five different directions and have captured the villages of Berestove and Ivanivka.

The main difference now is the AFU’s difficult situation with reserves. It will be hard for the Ukrainian command to reinforce this front, especially since it was previously weakened when troops from here were sent to defend Avdiivka and Vovchansk.

The Avdiivka front

Following a weeks-long hiatus, the Russian army has resumed its offensive near the village of Ocheretyne, which it captured in April. Russian troops are advancing both northward (reaching the outskirts of the village of Novooleksandrivka) and westward (with battles beginning for the villages of Sokil and Novopokrovske). It’s likely this will soon escalate into a large-scale offensive. Russia’s primary objective here is to reach the road between Pokrovsk and Kostiantynivka — a critical supply line for the AFU.

Other sectors

The Russian Armed Forces are relentlessly trying to undo all the limited achievements of Ukraine’s 2023 counteroffensive. Over the past week, they’ve taken the destroyed village of Robotyne (or most of it) in the Zaporizhzhia region and the ruins of Klishchiivka to the south of Bakhmut. The Russian command’s determination to recapture territories near Bakhmut that were liberated last summer could be due to their strategic importance for the offensive on Chasiv Yar. An assault on the eastern outskirts of Chasiv Yar in May was largely unsuccessful; the Russian army clearly needs to bring in more troops from the south, particularly from the direction of Klishchiivka.

In the case of Robotyne, however, the Russian command’s strategy is unclear. It’s possible that they plan to transfer troops currently stationed in defense positions along the eastern bank of the Dnipro River and launch a major offensive on the cities of Orikhiv and Hulyaipole.

The Russian Armed Forces are also trying to recapture villages in the Sukhi Yaly River valley, south of the village of Velyka Novosilka, on the border of the Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions. Ukrainian forces liberated these settlements in the summer of 2023. Russian troops have already partially occupied Staromaiorske and Urozhaine — villages Ukraine recaptured last summer.

The red dots show recent events, and the gray dots show earlier events. Black indicates the approximate contact line as of the last update; the red and blue areas mark places occupied (since early September) by Russian and Ukrainian forces. Clicking on them will provide additional information. Air strikes are marked with a special icon, ground operations with dots. Click on the point on the map to pull up source links.
Meduza is careful in working with data, but mistakes are still possible, and perhaps even inevitable. If you spot one, please let us know by sending an email to [email protected]. Thank you!
our previous combat map

Spread too thin Russia’s new offensive near Kharkiv is gaining ground, but the real objective might be exhausting Ukraine’s limited reserves

our previous combat map

Spread too thin Russia’s new offensive near Kharkiv is gaining ground, but the real objective might be exhausting Ukraine’s limited reserves

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