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Offensive in Kharkiv region: Vovchansk situation and whether Russians are encircled

Offensive in Kharkiv region: Vovchansk situation and whether Russians are encircled Defense forces stop Russian offensive in northern Kharkiv region (photo: GettyImages)

Nearly six weeks ago, Russia opened a new front, launching an offensive in northern Kharkiv. After the initial days of heavy fighting, the frontline has barely moved.

Below are details on what's happening with the Russian operation.

On May 10, the Russians launched an offensive on two sections of Kharkiv. For weeks, the enemy has made no advances on either front. On one front, the enemy is stuck at the Hlyboke-Lukianets line. On the other, they are stalled near Vovchansk.

Military-political analyst Oleksandr Kovalenko of the Information Resistance group says that the Russians are attempting to bolster their existing forces. Recently, they have regrouped and reinforced their units in the area.

"Currently, there are over 45,000 troops in the Belgorod group. Their numbers have been increased by bringing in forces from other directions. For example, units from the 83rd Separate Air Assault Brigade from the South group, units from the Kurakhiv direction, the 155th Separate Marine Brigade from the Dnepr group, the 810th Separate Marine Brigade that operated around Krynky, and the 61st Separate Marine Brigade have all been sent there. However, they are currently in a state of stagnation. They cannot significantly change the frontline," said Kovalenko.

Fightings locations

The enemy does not fully control Hlyboke, while Lukianets is currently occupied. However, there have been no significant advances there recently. Some positions have been retaken. Ukraine's Defense Forces have transitioned to active attacks, but the Russians have not fled, Kovalenko says.

In Vovchansk, the enemy controls only the northern outskirts and some western districts of the city. However, the center, east, and south of the city are held by the Defense Forces. Essentially, the entire part of Vovchansk beyond the Vovcha River is under Ukrainian control, the expert added.

"Crossing this river is quite challenging. Since they cannot cross directly in the Hatyshche-Synelnykove area west of Vovchansk, they are trying to advance further west in the Starytsia-Buhruvatka-Prylipka area, where a bridge crosses the Siverskyi Donets. This way, they can approach the city without crossing the Vovcha River and could surround Vovchansk from both the north and the west," explained Kovalenko.

Are Russians encircled?

Observers, military personnel, and OSINT analysts indicate that a group of Russians in Vovchansk is encircled at the Aggregate Plant in the north of the city. According to Kovalenko, an enemy sabotage group entered there in May, but by early June, they were cut off from other streets they controlled by fire control.

"Currently, the group of occupiers—likely up to a company in size—is blocked there. They cannot receive ammunition, food, or water. Supplies are attempted via drones, but this is not sufficient. Essentially, they are indeed encircled. There is no point in storming the plant for Ukraine's Defense Forces, as it would lead to losses on the Ukrainian side. Why not just starve and dehydrate them while applying fire pressure?" said the expert.

Why Russia started new operation in Kharkiv

Kovalenko suggests several reasons why the occupying forces decided to open a new front in Kharkiv. The primary goal was to advance as far as possible in the Lyptsi area to create a threat of artillery shelling Kharkiv.

There was also speculation that the Russians wanted to create a so-called sanitary zone on our border, the expert clarified. Additionally, the enemy might have aimed to approach Kupiansk from the opposite bank of the Oskil River through Vovchansk. However, with their current forces, this is also impossible, Kovalenko believes.

"Therefore, it seems to me that, most likely, this was a political performance for the Peace Summit in Switzerland, to demonstrate that Russia is still capable of something, making Putin's demands for capitulation more forceful. If successful, it would have led to opening a front in Sumy, perhaps even Chernihiv. This way, Putin would have had all the cards and could dictate his terms," suggested the expert.

Moscow's plan did not materialize. But making another "gesture of goodwill" is impossible, as they have become hostages of their information campaign fueled by Russian propaganda about Kharkiv.

Western authorization to strike Russia with its weapons

The permission from partners to strike Russian territory had an effect in curbing the Russians in Kharkiv. The Defense Forces were able to target the enemy’s military infrastructure in its close rear area.

"This, in turn, also reduced the intensity of shelling in Kharkiv from the S-300. Especially after a strike in the Belgorod area on one of the S-300 divisions. Strikes on the Russians' close rear area significantly reduced the intensity of Russian occupying forces' actions, weakened their logistics, and undermined their supply and command systems managed from Belgorod towards Kharkiv," Kovalenko believes.

Analysts from the Institute for the Study of War previously reported that Russia was redeploying units from the Donetsk region to the Kharkiv direction amid Ukrainian counterattacks.