Pace of Russian advance slows as forces seek connection between Vovchansk and Liptsi in Kharkiv Oblast – ISW

Evacuation of residents of Vovchansk under Russian shelling, May 14
Evacuation of residents of Vovchansk under Russian shelling, May 14

Russian offensive operations in north Kharkiv Oblast are beginning to slow down, but the Russians made new advances in Lukianets, Vovchansk and Buhrovata, states ISW's new report published on May 14.

Over the past day, pace of Russia’s offensive operations in north of Kharkiv Oblast seems to have slowed down, experts say. They add that current pattern of Russian offensive activity in the area is consistent with ISW’s assessment that the Russians are seeking to create a “buffer zone” along international border rather than move deeper into Kharkiv Oblast.

Several Ukrainian military officials said that looked like the situation in Kharkiv Oblast was slowly stabilizing, including Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate (HUR). Some Russian and Ukrainian sources have also reported that Russian forces are using a new tactic in the area: they are operating in small assault groups consisting of two to five people to infiltrate Ukrainian positions before joining with other small assault groups to form a larger strike force. Drone footage, likely from Vovchansk area, shows Russian infantry operating on foot within the town in small assault groups, which is consistent with Ukrainian reports.

However, usage of small assault groups may increase Russian losses in manpower and equipment and slow overall pace of Russian offensive in this area, ISW reminds. One Russian “military commander” who previously served as an instructor for Storm-Z unit (poorly trained Russian forces, used for meat assaults) complained that use of small assault groups was more indicative of poor training than of a new effective tactic. Ukrainian military observer Kostyantyn Mashovets noted that growth of Russian losses in this area leads to a slowdown in overall pace of offensive operations.

Read also: Situation in Kharkiv 'near critical' due to personnel and ammunition shortages - military intel

Chief of General Staff of Armed Forces of Ukraine, Major General Anatoliy Bargylevych, suggested that Russian troops lost up to 1,740 soldiers in past 24 hours alone, which is a very high level of casualties. ISW is unable to independently confirm this number, but level of casualties may be consistent with generally slower pace of offensive operations observed on May 14.

If the pace of Russian operations remains relatively slow, Russian forces are likely to focus on consolidating new positions and building up advance in Kharkiv Oblast by merging Liptseve and Vovchansk directions and creating a “buffer zone” in border area, rather than pushing further into oblast, ISW predicts.

Assessing advance of Russian troops in Kharkiv offensive, ISW notes a slight tactical advance of Russians in direction of Liptsy (north of Kharkiv). Geolocated footage published on May 13 shows that Russian troops have advanced south to one of intersections of Chervonyi Lane in eastern part of Lukiantsi.Russian sources claim that Russian troops have completely captured Lukiantsi and are operating in the fields southeast of village. However, ISW has not yet observed visual evidence of these claims. At the same time, General Staff acknowledged that Ukrainian forces have “redeployed” near Lukiantsi to save lives of Ukrainian soldiers - which is likely a tacit acknowledgment of Russian advance into the village, ISW says. Ukrainian sources and Russian “military commanders” claimed that Russian forces continue to try to reach outskirts of Lypky from Hlyboke (north of Lypky) and Lukiantsi.

Read also: Budanov reports stabilization as Ukrainian defense blocks Russians in Kharkiv Oblast

Russian troops also continue tactical offensives in and around Vovchansk. Geolocated footage released on May 14 shows Russian troops advancing along Slobozhanska Street in northwestern Vovchansk. Additional footage from May 14 shows that occupation forces advanced in northeastern Vovchansk in area of Zarichna Street. Russian sources reported that they had advanced in northwestern and northeastern parts of Vovchansk, which is consistent with available geolocation records.

Notably, ISW has not yet observed any evidence that Russians are operating on south (left) bank of Vovcha River in Vovchansk.

Read also: Russian troops seize the village of Lukiantsi in Kharkiv Oblast - monitoring group believes

Geo-located footage from May 14 also confirms that Russian troops have advanced into the center of Buhrovatka (a village southwest of Vovchansk) and into the forests north of Buhrovatka. The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that Russian troops had captured Bugrovatka, which is generally consistent with geolocated evidence and reports from other Russian sources, ISW noted. General Staff reported that Russian troops were advancing on Vovchansk from Shebekino, Belgorod Oblast, and that fighting was taking place on the outskirts of town.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine