Ukraine Is Pressing Forward Against Russia: After Russia’s offensive in the Donbas was ground to a halt, they shifted many of their troops to the south, where the much-publicized Ukrainian offensive to retake Kherson was about to take place.
Russian forces had suffered heavy losses, and many of their units around Kharkiv and Kherson were significantly understrength. Now the reason for Ukraine’s public pronouncements of the Kherson operation has become abundantly clear.
With Russian troop strength dwindling around Kharkiv, Ukraine pushed fresh troops into the line around Kharkiv and attacked. After two days of heavy fighting, the Ukrainians have broken through and are pushing deep into the Russian rear. The Ukrainian goal now seems to be the city of Kupiansk, the Russian main logistical hub that is located 70 miles east of Kharkiv.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine posted its morning update on Friday morning, stating the Russians continue to conduct operations to hold onto their occupation of the Donetsk region.
“The adversary focused its efforts on establishing full control over the territory of Donetsk region, maintaining control of the temporarily captured districts of Kherson region and parts of Kharkiv, Zaporizhia, and Mykolaiv regions. Their UAVs constantly conduct aerial reconnaissance flights, while the enemy forces are continuing to undertake measures to improve supplies to their troops,” they said.
Kupiansk Civilians Urged to Flee
Vitaly Ganchev, the Russian-installed proxy head of the Kupiansk city administration, has urged the women and children of the city to flee the oncoming Ukrainian offensive.
Ganchev said that Kupiansk “is constantly under terror” under “constant rocket attacks from the Armed Forces of Ukraine.” Ukrainian forces have been geolocated about 50km (31 miles) from Kupiansk.
Ganchev was quoted by the Russian state-run news agency TASS as saying Ukrainian troops attempted to encircle the city of Balakliya but were driven back with heavy casualties. But later, Ukrainian armed forces posted pictures on social media showing its soldiers raising the flag over the district’s administration building.
The Initiative Is Now Passed to Ukraine
The Ukrainian military is now advancing on two fronts, in the south around Kherson and striking from Kharkiv. The situation in both is following along similar paths. Ukrainian forces are attempting to cut Russia’s supply lines and isolate their troops without any supplies or personnel allowed to cross into Ukraine from Russia.
Intense shelling has targeted Russian supply and ammunition depots in the south, as well as the targeting of the bridges that cross the Dnieper River. But the attack on Kupiansk is geared toward the main logistical hub of Russian forces in the Donbas.
Tom Cooper, a military analyst and author, said that the Russian 2nd and 20th Combined Arms Armies were hollowed out due to casualties and shifting 12 battalions to Kherson. The Ukrainians moved in the 25th, 80th, 92nd Brigades, and the 3rd Tank Brigade and punched through the now thinly held Russian line at Verbivka.
He told Forbes that there is now little to stop the Ukrainians, as “there was absolutely nothing behind the Russian ‘front line,’” Cooper added. “No minefields, no fortifications, no strongholds, and no other Russian units capable of launching counterattacks.”
CIA Director William Burns, speaking about the newest aid packages to Ukraine and other countries that closely border Russia, said Western resolve remains steadfast.
“I believe, and my colleagues at CIA believe, that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is as wrong about that bet as he was profoundly wrong in his assumptions going back to last February about Ukrainian will to resist,” Burns said.
Russian General Captured in Ukraine?
The quick breakthrough by Ukrainian forces into the Russian rear areas may have netted a high-ranking Russian officer as a POW. They posted photos of a Russian officer wearing the shoulder boards of a lieutenant colonel.
But they also posted a side-by-side photo of this lieutenant colonel and Lieutenant General Andrei Sychevoi, commander of the Russian Federation’s (RF) Group of Forces West; the photos of the men look remarkably similar, even down to a mole on his left cheek.
Ukrainian troops questioned the officer, but he refused to answer, so his identity has not yet been confirmed. However, if the officer is LTG Sychevoi, it would be the highest-ranking officer to be captured since World War II.
Expert Biography: Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. A proven military analyst, he served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer in the 7th Special Forces Group. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 11 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.