The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Ukraine: Better Late Than Never

Posted on | September 9, 2022 | Comments Off on Ukraine: Better Late Than Never

(Click to see full-size map.)

Four months ago, after a Ukrainian counteroffensive drove the Russian invaders back from Kharkiv, I described how this had moved the Ukrainian front line “roughly 45 miles from Kupiansk, a crossroads on the supply line of the Russian forces at Izyum.” At the time, it appeared the Ukrainian advance might continue, but instead they seemed to dig in with the idea of holding what they had gained. Because the advantages of taking Kupiansk seemed so strategically obvious, I subsequently concluded that the otherwise inexplicable stalling of the Ukrainian advance must be due to a manpower shortage — they simply didn’t have enough troops to break through the Russian lines. So a seemingly endless stalemate continued on the front east of Kharkiv until this week, when suddenly the Ukrainians smashed the Russians:

A Ukrainian counteroffensive appears to be progressing in the north, but less so in the southern Kherson region that has attracted greater attention and Russian reinforcements.
Ukrainian officials and Russian military bloggers alike on Thursday described a counteroffensive in the north that has surprised in its speed, the first time since the war began that Ukrainian forces have been able to push past Russian defenses on a more than tactical level. . . .
In the few days since the offensive began with an assault on the town of Balakliya, about 90 km (56 miles) south east of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, units have advanced 50 km into Russian-held territory, taking 20 settlements, according to Oleksiy Hromov, a spokesman for the Ukrainian armed forces.
“The enemy is partially demoralized but continues to put up resistance,” Hromov said in a briefing on Thursday.
In his Thursday evening video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said soldiers had liberated a total of 1000 km2 (386 square miles) of occupied territory since the beginning of September. Some Ukrainian units have moved so fast they’re beyond the range of artillery support, according to pro-Kremlin Russian military blogger Alexander Kots.
By Friday, Kots was worried that Ukrainian forces already had cut ties with Kupyansk, a key logistics hub for Russian troops fighting in the eastern Donbas region. He said Ukrainian soldiers appeared to have veered north of the town to sever the road to the Russian border. “The situation is difficult,” Kots wrote on his Telegram channel, which has more than half a million subscribers. . . .
By Thursday, however, the Ukrainian attack had claimed Shevchenkovo, the largest remaining town on the road east to Kupyansk. . . .
The latest daily report from the Institute for the Study of War described the gulf between the Russian Defense Ministry’s silence on Ukrainian gains and criticism from military bloggers as the most severe since a disastrous attempted river crossing by Moscow’s forces in May. It also said Ukrainian troops would likely take Kupyansk within days.

Wow! If it is true that Ukrainian troops have taken Shevchenkovo, that’s just 22 miles west of Kupiansk, and the suggestion that they have “veered north” of Kupiansk — toward Kindrashivka or Zapadne — would indicate an imminent threat to the supply route for Russian forces in Izyum. As usual, however, I must caution that I know nothing about the size of the forces engaged on either side, and it is impossible to know whether the Ukrainians have enough strength to continue their offensive, or if on the other hand Russia can bring in enough defensive forces to halt the Ukrainian advance. The fact that it took four months for Ukraine to assemble a force strong enough to break through the Russian lines east of Kharkiv suggests that they don’t have an abundance of trained and organized troops. Of course, even though Russia has a much larger army, their manpower reserves are not inexhaustible, and the reports of Ukrainian forces advancing rapidly against demoralized Russian troops would indicate they’ve been pushed to their limit already.

We will need to monitor the news in the next few days to see if there are reports of Ukrainian forces reaching the vicinity of Kindrashivka, because that would be very bad news for the Russians. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Smashing Success?



Comments are closed.