Russian troops have resumed localized ground attacks to the northwest and southwest of the city of Izyum, which may indicate that the Russians are preparing conditions for offensive operations on Kharkiv or the western part of the Oblast, the U.S-based Institute for the Study of War said in their latest war update on July 31.
However, the analysts believe that "Russian forces are extremely unlikely to seize Kharkiv Oblast or capture Kharkiv City – the second most populated city in Ukraine – given the pace of Russian progress in Donbas and continued challenges in force generation and logistics".
ISW also notes that in recent days, Russian troops have already made unsuccessful assaults and reconnaissance-in-force attempts on Chepil, Shchurivka and Husarivka (northwest of Izyum) and renewed assaults on Dmytrivka and Brazhkivka (southwest of Izyum). It is also likely that as a springboard for its offensive in Kharkiv Oblast (including a possible attack on Kharkiv City from the southeast), the Russian army can use its positions near Balakliya and Velyka Komyshuvakha.
The analysts noted that they had previously assessed that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin may have ordered Russian troops to capture Kharkiv City and the Ukrainian-controlled part of Kharkiv Oblast. However, he is unlikely to be able to achieve such goals, according to the Institute. They also suggest that the Russian military may resort to spoiling attacks in this region to prevent a counteroffensive by Ukraine.
Other conclusions of the ISW regarding the situation in Ukraine over the past day:
• The Kremlin has not responded to an International Red Cross request to access the Olenivka prison as of July 31, hindering the international investigation efforts;
• Russian forces continued ground attacks northwest of Slovyansk, northeast of Siversk, and to the east and south of Bakhmut;
• Russian forces made marginal gains in the Avdiivka area and continued ground attacks towards Avdiivka and Pisky;
• Russian occupation authorities continue to prepare for a referendum in Kherson Oblast and are taking measures to depict support for Russian control of the occupied territories.
Russia's war against Ukraine: map of hostilities
Battle for Donbas
Battles in Kharkiv Oblast
Battles in southern Ukraine: Kherson, Mykolaiv oblasts