Ukraine recaptures 400 square kilometers in Kharkiv Oblast, ISW report says

8 September, 11:39 AM
Ukrainian artillerymen on the front line (Photo:General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine)

Ukrainian artillerymen on the front line (Photo:General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine)

Ukraine’s military is conducting an effective, fast-paced counter-offensive operation in Kharkiv Oblast, recapturing around 400 square kilometers of territory so far, the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its Sept. 7 report.

According to the report, Ukrainian forces in southeastern Kharkiv Oblast are likely exploiting Russian force reallocation to Kherson and Zaporizhzhya oblasts to conduct an opportunistic yet highly effective counter-offensive northwest of Izyum. Ukrainian forces likely used tactical surprise to advance at least 20 kilometers into Russian-held territory in eastern Kharkiv Oblast on Sept. 7, recapturing approximately 400 square kilometers of ground. The report describes Ukrainian counter-attacks near Balakliya and Izyum as “very effective.”

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Furthermore, ISW assessed that Russian military bloggers are panicking, acknowledging significant Ukrainian gains, and claiming that the Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south may be a distraction from the ongoing actions in Kharkiv Oblast, which they say is the main Ukrainian effort.

Russian sources claimed that Russian troops began deploying reinforcements to the area to defend against Ukrainian advances, and the Russian grouping in this area was likely understrength due to previous Russian deployments to support ongoing efforts to capture the remainder of Donetsk Oblast and support operations in southern Ukraine.

“The level of shock and frank discussion of Ukrainian successes by Russian military bloggers speaks to the scale of surprise achieved by Ukrainian forces, which is likely successfully demoralizing Russian forces,” the report said.

ISW analysts do not think, however, that Ukraine’s counter-attacks near Kherson were merely “a feint,” distracting from the main effort in Kharkiv Oblast. Instead, Ukrainian forces likely took prudent advantage of a reallocation of Russian troops, equipment, and overall operational focus to launch localized counter-offensives toward critical points in Kharkiv Oblast.

The report also mentions the attempts by Russian dictator Vladimir Putin to dispute a recent report UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the situation at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). Putin claimed falsely that there is no Russian military equipment on the grounds of the ZNPP other than Rosgvardia elements.

Rosgvardia elements have carried out both occupation functions and frontline combat operations during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Putin’s admission that there are Rosgvardia elements on the plant’s grounds further confirms that Russian forces have militarized their presence at the ZNPP despite constant Russian denials.

ISW previously assessed the IAEA report was a coded yet damning condemnation of Russian activities at the ZNPP.

Other key takeaways:

  • Ukrainian forces continued strikes on Russian logistics nodes, manpower and equipment concentrations, transportation networks, and command and control points in Kherson Oblast;
  • Russian and Ukrainian sources reported “kinetic activity” in northern Kherson Oblast and in western Kherson Oblast along the Kherson-Mykolaiv border;
  • Russian forces conducted ground attacks north of Kharkiv, northwest of Slovyansk, northeast of Siversk, south and northeast of Bakhmut, and northwest of Donetsk;
  • Russian occupation authorities announced November 4 as the potential date for annexation referendums in occupied areas of Ukraine.

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