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Gray zone expanding: Where Russia advancing and how Ukraine can hold line

Gray zone expanding: Where Russia advancing and how Ukraine can hold line Ukrainian troops hold back Russians from the entire front (photo by Getty Images)

The situation at the front remains difficult. After capturing Avdiivka, Russia expanded the breakthrough zone while advancing in other areas. Read more about where the Russian troops are advancing and whether the Defense Forces will be able to deter the attack in the RBC-Ukraine review.

Sources: US Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Ukrainian project DeepState, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Oleksandr Syrskyi, military speakers Nazar Voloshyn and Dmytro Pletenchuk, experts Vladyslav Seleznov and Oleksiy Hetman.


Main attack on Pokrovsk and Kurakhove

The situation is particularly difficult in the Donetsk region. So much so that the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, visited units in the Pokrovsk and Kurakhove directions. According to him, this is the direction of the Russia's main attack. The superior Russian forces are trying to break through the defense every day to reach Pokrovsk and Kurakhove.

"Our task in these conditions is to hold the occupied lines and positions... to inflict maximum losses on the enemy by all means, to exhaust him, to disrupt his plans, and to gain time to prepare our reserves," he says.

In the direction of Pokrovsk, the Russian troops managed to gain a foothold in the village of Ocheretyne. The Ukrainian Defense Forces have moved reserves to stabilize the front. However, analysts record new advances. According to ISW, the Russian troops have already advanced north of Ocheretyne and west of Tonenke. DeepState reports the capture of Novokalynove, Arkhanhelske, and the village of Keramik in the direction of Toretsk.

There is no talk of an offensive on Pokrovsk yet, but the situation is threatening and this is a fact, explains former General Staff spokesperson Vladyslav Seleznov. The Ukrainian Armed Forces tried to cut off the Ocheretyne wedge but failed because Russia gained a foothold on the flanks and expanded them.

"The enemy does not have the resources to attack and capture Pokrovsk. But it has the resources to capture the village of New York with the prospect of capturing Toretsk. I think the situation will escalate soon from Ocheretyne to the north," he says.

Gray zone expanding: Where Russia advancing and how Ukraine can hold lineRussian troops are trying to reach Pokrovsk, Kurakhove, and Toretsk (photo by

On the way to Kurakhove, Russians have been storming Krasnohorivka, the closest town to Donetsk that is under the control of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, for about two months. Russia has entered the southern part of the town, and fighting is taking place on the territory of a local refractory plant. According to Nazar Voloshyn, spokesperson for the Khortytsia operational and strategic group of troops, the Russians are blocked at the plant and cut off from ammunition supplies.

The day before, he said that the Russians occasionally enter the eastern outskirts in armored vehicles, but mostly they are small assault or mobile groups on motorcycles.

Ukrainian troops in Krasnohorivka are helped by the terrain, but if the critical lack of resources continues, they will not be able to repel Russian attacks. Which have intensified in the area, says Seleznov.

"If we lose the promka (the territory of the refractory plant - ed.), we may lose the entire settlement. The issue of resources remains key, if we don't have them, we will continue to receive bad news from the front," the expert adds.

Threats to Chasiv Yar: frontal attacks and flanking

Another hot area in the Donetsk region is Bakhmut. Here, as before, there is fighting on the eastern outskirts of Chasiv Yar in the Kanal neighborhood. The gray zone is growing, and, judging by the maps, it has come close to the buildings.

The Russians have been bombarding massively with guided aerial bombs. Last week, the Associated Press published a video showing the scale of destruction in Chasiv Yar, comparable to Bakhmut and Avdiivka. Although the battle for the town began relatively recently, there are almost no surviving buildings.

Russia has concentrated up to 25 thousand people in this area. According to Oleg Kalashnikov, a representative of the 26th Artillery Brigade named after Roman Dashkevych, Russian mobilized soldiers are the first to go into battle. If they manage to gain a foothold on the outskirts of the city, experienced soldiers are brought in to create a firing line.

The capture of Chasiv Yar is important for the Russian occupiers, as without control over it it is impossible to advance towards Kramatorsk and Kostiantynivka, adds Kalashnikov. The Khortytsia group assured that the fighting was going on day and night, and despite Russian propaganda, the enemy was being held back outside the city. Assault groups are also trying to cross the Siverskyi Donets-Donbas canal, but are being destroyed on the way. Russia's numerical advantage is estimated at 10:1.

Gray zone expanding: Where Russia advancing and how Ukraine can hold lineChasiv Yar is being attacked head-on and flanked (photo by

According to UK intelligence, the number of attacks increased by 200% from March to April. However, Russia still achieved only limited success and probably suffered heavy losses. Nevertheless, Vladyslav Seleznov is not sure that Chasiv Yar will be held in the medium term.

"Of course, it won't happen tomorrow or the day after, but the trend is very unfavorable. The enemy is not only attacking head-on in the Kanal neighborhood but also flanking us. In the north, it is not very successful, but in the south (from the direction of Ivanivske - ed.) it copes with this mission," he notes.

According to him, if the Ukrainian Defense Forces do not find the resources to stabilize the front, the issue of losing Chasiv Yar will be acute.

"Not the loss of Chasiv Yar directly as a result of assault attacks, no. But taking into account the risks of engagement and encirclement, this option is quite likely," he adds.

Activity near Kupiansk and possibility of offensive on Kharkiv

To the north of Bakhmut, Russia is trying to reach Siversk, but so far there have been no changes in the contact line. According to DeepState, there are advances near the village of Vesele, but this is data for a long period of time. In any case, the Russians are pressing and there are no positive trends in this area.

There are reports of assaults in the area of Bilohorivka, Zolotarivka, and Verkhniokamianka. One of the goals of the breakthrough to Siversk is to cut off the Siverskyi ledge to get to the rear of Ukrainian forces in the Serebrianske forestry. The fighting there is dynamic, positions are changing hands and, according to Nazar Voloshyn, the tactical positions have improved somewhat.

A little further north near Kupyansk, Russians are storming the area of Kyslivka, Kotliarivka, and Tabaivka on the road to Svatove (Luhansk region). The escalation on the Lyman-Kupiansk axis is dangerous, as Russians are attacking with tank units and are also deploying paratroopers from the Robotyne area (Zaporizhzhia region).

"We will see even more active fighting soon. We have lost Kyslivka and Kotliarivka, so we should not talk about them as a defense line. I do not rule out that we may lose Synkivka as well. Of course, this is a wake-up call for Kupyansk and Kupyansk-Vuzlovyi. Synkivka is the key to them, and Kupiansk-Vuzlovyi, in my opinion, is the main mission for the enemy shortly," emphasizes Seleznov.

Gray zone expanding: Where Russia advancing and how Ukraine can hold lineThe Russian occupiers are gradually trying to reach Kupiansk from two sides (photo by

Concerns about the Kharkiv region have increased after the statements of the Commander of the Land Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Oleksandr Pavliuk. According to him, Russia has plans to capture Kharkiv or Sumy, but it is unknown how serious they are.

Subversive groups on the border have already become more active, one of them was stopped while trying to enter the village of Pylna north of Kharkiv. At the same time, the enemy group is building up in the Kursk region bordering Ukraine. According to the head of the Kharkiv Regional Military Administration, Oleh Syniehubov, a group of 100,000 is needed to open a new front line, and so far there is no such grouping.

As of today, up to 70,000 Russian soldiers are concentrated there, and it is unrealistic to capture Kharkiv with this number, says Major Oleksii Hetman, a reserve soldier in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The Russian occupiers used about the same number or slightly less near Avdiivka and Bakhmut. On the other hand, it is unlikely that they gathered there for a smoke break.

In his opinion, the group may move to some other part of the frontline or start tactical operations in the northeast in Kharkiv, Chernihiv, or Sumy regions. Why? Even if they realize that they cannot capture a large city with such forces, they may attempt to attack to stretch the Ukrainian defense.

"We can agree that these troops will not attack in such numbers head-on or bypass Kharkiv. But it is also true that they will not sit idle. They can be used in tactical offensives in the northeast or to quickly move somewhere else where an offensive is already planned," the expert explains in an interview with RBC-Ukraine.

Southern front

In the south, the Russians are unsuccessfully trying to drive the Ukrainian Defense Forces out of Krynky on the left bank of the Kherson region. Moreover, by the end of April, Ukrainian troops advanced in the area of Veletenske (right bank) and took control of Nestryha Island on the Dnipro River.

Since early May, Russia has been trying to retake it. According to Dmytro Pletenchuk, a spokesperson for the Southern Defense Forces of Ukraine, Nestryha was a loss for Russia in the tactical and propaganda sense, so the assaults may intensify. So far, there have been no significant changes like the Russians' actions, nor are there any signs of offensive groups being formed. The situation in the south is relatively stable, Ukrainian soldiers are repelling Russian attacks on Krynky and Robotyne (Zaporizhzhia region), the spokesperson adds.

Gray zone expanding: Where Russia advancing and how Ukraine can hold lineRussians are attacking Robotyne, but most likely the actions in the south are not about advancement (photo

Analysts note that in April, the Ukrainian Armed Forces slightly expanded their bridgehead in Krynky. As for the Zaporizhzhia region, fighting continues in Robotyne and east of the village near Verbove. According to Hetman, it will not be quiet in the south, the fighting will continue, but here the Russians are more likely to think about preventing the advance of the Ukrainian army rather than their advance.

"Because I am sure that with the weapons that will arrive in sufficient quantities, we will be able to seize the initiative at least in the south. Therefore, I don't think we should expect a Russian offensive from the south, as they will throw all their forces to the east. Judging by what we see, the main attempts to attack will be there," he says, without predicting when Ukraine will seize the initiative.

As for the summer offensive, it has already begun. Russian troops will maneuver, and change directions of attack, as the logic and strategy of land battles have not changed significantly over the past hundred years. Therefore, we should prepare for attempts to break through the defense along the entire front, the expert adds.

Right now, Ukraine is receiving Western weapons, but not in the amounts voted for. The day before, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy assured that as soon as the Ukrainian Defense Forces receive what they need, the Russian troops in the east will be stopped. Much now depends on the speed of delivery.