Some days, it is simply much more fun to haul out the maps. This is one of those days.
Over the month of August, something changed in Russia’s illegal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. that something was the Ukrainian military consistently hitting Russian facilities of command, control, and supply well behind the front lines. How much of that change was directly attributable to HIMARS O’Clock! is debatable. But whatever the source of those shots, the Ukrainian military is reporting a total of 200 Russian military facilities destroyed, including supply depots, repair centers, and command posts.
As far as gains made by Russia in the last few days, it seems that Russia has finally pushed a route through the mines and debris in Pisky and has reached the bridge to the west. That’s about it. Where is Ukraine now advancing on the ground? Where isn’t it?
When looking at Kharkiv, I want to point out the Ukrainian military command mixed up Novovoznesenske and Novovoskresenske, two towns which are both in the northern part of Kharkiv oblast, in their announcements this week. This makes me feel much better about my difficulties in labeling the correct Blahodatne or Kyselivka. Or throwing my hands up over yet another Telegram message that mentions Ivanivka.
Those who have suggested that the main effort in Kherson is in the north, and that the cutting of bridges not just across the Dnipro River, but the Inhulets River, was to isolate the northern portion of the oblast (a group that includes kos) seem to be scoring more “I was right all along” points by the day. Ukraine has now taken that long-held Russian position at Vysokopillya along with all surrounding villages. What’s the difference between Novovoznesenske and Novovoskresenske? Ukraine has already liberated the former and is now engaged in liberating the latter. There are also unconfirmed reports of Ukrainian troops ranging as far as Novooleksandrivka, but those are so far unconfirmed. In any case, that’s a lot of novo.
Update: While I’ve been writing this, confirmation has come in that Ukraine has now liberated Novovoskresenske. So this map, made this morning, is already out of date. Ukraine is moving very quickly.
Down at the still expanding Ukrainian bridgehead over the Inhulets, not only did Ukrainian troops double back across a Russian-built pontoon bridge to capture Blahodativka, they also pressed on to get Bezimenne, which was considered part of Russia’s “second line.” Don’t expect to hear a lot from this bridgehead today, because even if they’re still advancing, it’s a long way to the next village that’s more than a crossroads. They’re genuinely in Russia’s backfield at this point, and where they go next should be really informative. Will they push toward the road to Nova Kakhovka? Cut west to take more towns along the river? Predicting where this force will go next has turned out to be a sucker’s game, and I’m not going to try.
At the south end of the oblast, I’ve reluctantly erased that big blue blob that jutted in to Tomyna Balka. This doesn’t represent any kind of Russian advance, or a withdrawal of Ukrainian troops. It represents that this capture, which was reported by CNN over a week ago, has still not been confirmed by anyone else and likely never happened. I’ll be happy to put it right back if there is any news from that area, but right now, this doesn’t seem to be a particularly active area of conflict. And, just to be clear, Ukraine did take Olexsandrivka earlier this week, but if they still have, it is just about anyone’s guess. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn the translation of Olexsandrivka is a “place that everyone keeps walking over.”
For those still getting “nuh uh, Russia didn’t really lose Vysokopillya” in their inboxes, have a tweet from a a twitter account that is apparently NOT the murderous Russian warlord, upset because they didn’t let him be king of the Donbas, Igor Girkin.
As reports indicate that Ukraine is actually massing forces for its own counterattack into Donetsk oblast, Russian actions in eastern Ukraine over the last two days appear to be mostly limited to the continued attempts to reach Soledar and Bakhmut. To that end, every town that is white on this map represents a separate Russian attempt to advance. Absolutely none of these attacks appears to have gained Russia a meter of territory, all of them are certain to have run up costs in men and materiel. Frankly, it seems a kind of perverse miracle that Russia can still round up troops and get them to make one of these attacks. By now, every soldier on the eastern front must have seen or heard about a hundred failures.
This line is about where it has been for the last two months, since Russia’s rapid advance following the fall of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk. The primary targets remain the not-seen-here Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, about 40km to the west. Unless something changes drastically, Russia seems unlikely ever to come in sight of those locations.
Really, the push to take the remainder of the Donbas seems to have collapsed when Russia failed to capture the stubborn town of Bohorodychne, south of Izyum. Unable to pressure Slovyansk from two sides, Ukraine has been able to put the brakes on that advance from the east.
In the area south of Izyum, Ukraine seems to be comfortably holding existing positions and pressing Russia along a wide front. That includes both pushing through the heavily-mined rubble that was Dovhen’ke and from the west along highway P79. That area in the woods west of Izyum proper has more or less reverted to Russian control, but that seems to be because Ukraine is simply no longer staging the kind of hit-and-run raids it was conducting against Russian forces parked in this area.
Instead, Ukraine has launched a more serious push to the north, liberating the village of Verbivka and moving into the long-held Russian position at Balakliya. Just like Vysokopillya in the Kherson area, this town has been an important Russian outpost for launching attacks to the west, as well as a fortified defensive position locking in Russia’s control over this portion of the map. Some reports are indicating that Ukrainian forces have already taken most of the town. Others that Russian forces are departing a whole series of villages and towns along that stretch of the Siverskyi Donets River.
Whatever is happening, it has Russian forces in the area in an absolute panic. This move seems to have caught them totally by surprise. Or not, says Russian bots everywhere.
There is no panic … except for all the panic. Meanwhile, Ukraine is feeling so upbeat about this counteroffensive that President Zelenskyy is expected to speak in the next couple of hours specifically about what’s happening at Balakliya.
Russia seems to have brought down the bridge between Balakliya and Bairak to the south. But that may have happened even before Ukraine began its assault. In any case … there is no panic.
Note: Careful observers may spot that the area at the top of this map has shifted a bit toward Russia. That’s not because anything changed up there, but because about two months ago, I mistook Volokhiv Yar for Vovchyi Yar. It seems to be the theme of the day.
These are not the only areas where fighting is heavy. Over the last month, Russia has been creeping back toward Kharkiv, recapturing some small villages and moving around Ukrainian forces to take border towns to the west. But on Tuesday, fighting is going on in multiple areas, with Ukraine bringing new forces against Russian positions.
For those who last looked at this area more than a month ago, when Ukraine had liberated Rubizhne, Ternova, Vessle, and was right on the edge of Lyptsi, seeing those areas back in red is certainly disappointing. But the biggest, most important action in the region to happen since the first Ukrainian counteroffensive swept out to Staryi Saltiv and drove Russian forces out of the Kharkiv suburbs is happening right now.
It’s happening near the northwest corner of this map, where Ukraine is engaged in fighting right at Kozacha Lopan. This is another of Russia’s big “hard points.” Just like at Balakliya and at Vysokopillya, this represents Ukraine going straight at Russia’s toughest position—and also the place where many supplies are stored and where command and control resources are located. That stretch from Kozacha Lopan over to Kudiivka is where Russia has been digging, mining, and otherwise building up defenses around that big border crossing on highway E105. That was the major port between Russia and Ukraine before the war, and it’s still a vital route to supplying Russian forces in the region.
Remember that, over to the east, all those bridges across the Siverskyi Donets are still down. Russia has to supply their forces in Kharkiv by bringing materials over the border, and for the most part, that has meant that crossing east of Kozacha Lopan. Fighting appears to be heavy just everywhere along this line. North of Dementiivka. Tsupivka. Velyki Prokhody. It’s all on fire.
Over to the west, the border towns that Russia had claimed in the last month seem to have reverted back to Ukraine. It’s likely that Russia never put enough forces into these towns to seriously occupy them. They were only trying to draw Ukrainian forces away from the current lines. Now they seem to have quit fiddling around along the border as the fight gets more serious.
Meanwhile, in the “strange things happen in war” category …
Having just seen Nope, I’m glad to see this outcome.
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This is Ukrainian forces crossing the Silverskyi Donets at a third location in the last three days. The trip into Ozerne that kicked off this triptych was little more than a quick over and back by some special forces in a boat, meant more to stick a thumb in Russia’s eye than to take and hold any location.
Unclear yet if this is a serious effort, or just another example of showing the colors to the folks awaiting liberation.
Those are confirmed advances in Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Kherson oblasts. I’m still not taking the advances across the Siverskyi-Donetsk river seriously, at least not until Ukraine shows a permanent defensive presence and has a way to resupply those positions. But the fact Russia can do nothing about those incursions says all we need to know—that entire area is empty of any Russian military presence.