The Other McCain

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Ukraine’s Kharkiv Counter-Offensive Could Threaten Russians in Izyum

Posted on | May 7, 2022 | No Comments

On the one hand, the past week has been good for Russia in that they seem to have gone the past six days without having another general killed, but on the other hand, the Ukrainians have scored crucial victories around Kharkiv. The invaders have been pushed back north and east of the city, which has endured weeks of shelling from Russian artillery. The Ukrainian push eastward from Kharkiv is especially promising, as they have advanced about 40 miles, all the way to Pechenihy on their left (north) and past the MO3/P07 highway crossroads of Chuhuiv as far as Malynivka on their right (south). While the Russians have retreated behind the Donets east of Pechenihy, with the river as an obstacle to further Ukrainian advances there, the prospect for Ukraine pushing southeast from Malynivka could be crucial. They are now roughly 45 miles from Kupiansk, a crossroads on the supply line of the Russian forces at Izyum, who thus now face a threat to their flank and rear.

You can click that map to enlarge it. Having no information about the forces involved on either side, whether the Russians or Ukrainians have reserves they can throw into this action, etc., it is impossible for me to assess the likelihood of Ukraine making rapid progress toward Kupiansk. Obviously, the Russian commanders can look at a map and see this threat to their supply line as clearly as I can, so you’ve got to figure that shoring up their defenses in that area will be a major priority. Still, even if Russia is able to hold off a Ukrainian threat to Kupiansk, doing so will require a diversion of men and materiel from elsewhere, so that the mere threat has strategic value for Ukraine in terms of the disposition of forces.

The importance of this development is that Izyum represents the northern pincer of Russia’s attempt to encircle Ukrainian forces in the east. If Ukraine can force Russia to withdraw from Izyum, this will effectively prevent the Russians from achieving that strategic objective. So over the coming week, pay attention to what’s happening in this theater, which may ultimately decide the outcome of the entire war.




 

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