Espreso. Global

Media obtain Russian plans of Kharkiv region offensive

21 May, 2024 Tuesday
14:34

Military plans obtained and shared with the Economist indicate Russian intentions to partially encircle Kharkiv, encountering limited resistance due to perceived Ukrainian defensive weaknesses

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The Economist shared the information.

Ten days into Russia’s offensive in Kharkiv province, the advance has slowed. Ukraine holds the Russians halfway through Vovchansk, a border town now in ruins, and at positions 9km inside Ukraine near Lyptsi. With 48,000 troops, Russia lacks the strength for a major assault on Kharkiv city. However, local military leaders warn the situation is precarious and could change quickly. Russian columns were stopped only after experienced brigades were redeployed, and President Vladimir Putin may try to attack elsewhere in the region. A new Russian column is forming in Sudzha, across the border from Sumy, northwest of Kharkiv. Ukraine’s army is also preparing for another strike east of Vovchansk towards Bilyi Kolodiaz. Battles have reignited near Kupyansk, with Ukraine losing control of Berestove on May 17th.

Obtained military plans, shared with The Economist, indicate Russian intentions to partially encircle Kharkiv and exert pressure on Ukrainian forces east of the Pechenihy reservoir. Originally slated for May 15th-16th, the operation was accelerated by nearly a week for undisclosed reasons.

The plans outline two axes of attack flanking the reservoir. The western axis aimed to advance Russian troops within artillery range of Kharkiv at Borshchova village over 72 hours. However, swift action by a redeployed unit from the elite 92nd Brigade pushed them back 10km from their objective. Yet, until then, the focus had been on Ukraine's inadequate defenses, including the 125th Brigade's retreat under pressure, resulting in significant losses.

On the eastern Vovchansk axis, the Russian strategy involved advancing beyond Pechenihy town, encountering minimal resistance despite the absence of expected minefields and fortifications. 

“They were just simply allowed to walk through,” complains Denys Yaroslavsky, a special forces officer. “We were watching them cut through the border fence on screens at about 11 pm on May 9th, and I said to my men to watch how they would blow themselves up on mines. There were no explosions; they simply carried on.”

The ease of their progress dismayed many Kharkiv soldiers, attributing it to delays in Western aid, incompetence, or even treachery. Rumors circulate suggesting political motives behind the alleged lack of preparedness and misleading official narratives.

“[President Volodymyr] Zelenskyy is being kept in a warm bath,” complains Mr Yaroslavsky. “We think the president should tune into the situation on the ground and not ape Putin, a man whose life revolves around the papers his aides bring him.” 

Moreover, a government official, who asked to remain anonymous, suggests that Mr Zelenskyy had already sensed he might not be receiving the full truth, the Economist claims.

Criticism also extends to optimistic news reports, which complicate evacuation efforts near Vovchansk by fostering misconceptions about the severity of potential Russian occupation. Despite evidence of the destruction caused by Russian attacks, some residents cling to the belief that their homes will remain safe.

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