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Ukraine Update

By Viewsridge – Own work based on: Russo-Ukrainian conflict (2014-2022).svg by Rr016 & Ukraine adm location map improved.svg by Yakiv GluckTerritorial control sources:Template:Russo-Ukrainian War detailed map / Template:Russo-Ukrainian War detailed relief mapISW, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=115506141

Not ideal.

After months of attrition warfare, Russia is once again on the march in Ukraine, this time targeting Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, which is just a stone’s throw from the border with Russia. 

The attack, currently focused on breaching defenses north of the city, has already picked up steam as Ukrainian troops still wait for Western weapons to arrive en masse. Ukraine has evacuated 8,000 people from the Kharkiv region during the five-day assault, according to the national emergency services. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has canceled his foreign trips. And Ukrainian troops appear to be backing off the city of Vovchansk, a central front-line defensive position near Kharkiv.

Kofman and Lee:

By threatening Ukraine’s second most populous city, Russia hopes to pin Ukrainian resources in the region, exposing the front elsewhere. Ukraine’s immediate priority is to stabilize the front line and prevent a major Russian breakthrough, which it may be able to do. But it is dealing with a series of challenges that have accumulated since last year and will not be quick to resolve. Despite the recent passing of the aid bill in Congress, which freed up billions in assistance for Kyiv, things are likely to get worse before they get better.

Russia’s aim is not to take Kharkiv, but to menace it by advancing toward the city and threatening it with artillery. While Russia lacks the forces to assault the city itself, the operation is designed to create a dilemma. Ukrainian forces are already stretched relatively thin; by drawing Ukraine’s reserves and better units to the defense of Kharkiv, the Russian attack weakens other parts of the front line. Russia remains focused on occupying the remainder of the Donetsk region in the east, looking to seize key transit hubs and population centers.

In recent days, some Ukrainian units have already been redeployed from Donetsk to Kharkiv, and it appears that Ukraine is deploying individual battalions to reinforce other parts of the front. This risks leaving Ukrainian forces in Donetsk even more vulnerable if Russia commits its reserves in that direction. Russian forces are also applying pressure near Kupiansk, to Kharkiv’s east, and in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia. Incursions along the border in the Sumy and Chernihiv regions may be to come.

The Russian offensive comes at a time of vulnerability for Ukraine. Since last fall, the country has faced three interrelated problems: lack of ammunition, manpower and fortifications. Ukraine has made progress improving its fortifications over the spring, and the aid package from the United States should alleviate its ammunition shortages. But Ukraine’s manpower has continued to deteriorate especially where it counts: in its infantry.

Reasons for hope? Russia has taken very serious losses during this offensive and Russian resources are not endless. But the situation is far from good at the moment, especially for those who live in the Kharkiv region.

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