The attempted offensive on Bilohorivka is one prong of the Russian pincer maneuver effort designed to encircle two major cities in Luhansk Oblast, Lysychansk, and Sievoerodonetsk.
In the first weeks of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia ditched its early plans to cut off the entire Ukrainian group of forces in the country’s east from the rest of Ukraine as Kharkiv in the north didn’t fall, and the invasion forces couldn’t advance much further south than the city of Izium in Kharkiv Oblast. Moreover, the Russian offensive from the south on Zaporizhzhia also stalled at the time.
Now, the ongoing Ukrainian counter-offensive north and east of Kharkiv not only disrupted the plans of cutting off the entire eastern half of Ukraine, but also made the next smaller-scale plan to pocket the Ukrainian troops much less possible with the Ukrainian slow advance towards Izium.
As the axes of the Russian attacks show, the smaller-scale attempt of surrounding only the Donbas group of the Ukrainian troops was meant to advance to the south from Izium and to the north from Horlivka, Donetsk Oblast, linking up the two pincers near Kramatorsk or Druzhkivka.
As the Russian troops failed to break through the Ukrainian defenses in both areas, the next was an even smaller-scale attempt at an encirclement of the Ukrainian troops.
Failed offensive on Bilohorivka
The battalion tactical group (BTG) is a Russian combined-arms temporary autonomous unit typically comprising 600–800 troops, equipped with around 10 tanks and 40 infantry vehicles.
The Russian troops started assembling the first pontoon bridge over the Siverskyi Donets near Bilohorivka on 8 May. The Ukrainian artillery destroyed the bridge and the equipment which managed to cross the river.For several days, the Russians continued their attempts to build alternative crossings and send more equipment to the Ukrainian-controlled bank of the Donets while the Ukrainian artillery and sometimes aircraft kept destroying the Russian bridges and vehicles.
Video of the failed Russian crossing of the Severskyi Donets river with Russian forces coming under Ukrainian artillery fire. Much of the damage had already been done by this point. https://t.co/tvDyrbqEPT pic.twitter.com/nrZWSmUs9K
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) May 14, 2022
The 80th Brigade also said that some of the Russian troops managed to advance to the outskirts of allegedly the village Bilohorivka, where the Brigade’s soldiers fought them for two days:
“Despite heavy losses, the enemy still managed to break through and move part of its forces on the other bank, gaining a foothold on the northern outskirts of one of the settlements. Assault units of the 80th Brigade entered the action here. Fierce heavy fighting lasted about two days,” which resulted in the retreat of the Russian troops, who left behind materiel and equipment.
The photo dated 13 May shows at least eight new sunk tanks absent from the previously shared footage:
Another Russian unit that suffered losses amid the failed river crossing was the 35 Motor Rifle Brigade.
As of 12 May, a total of 73 pieces of Russian equipment, destroyed or abandoned, was visually confirmed by the drone footage, including a battalion-tactical group worth of armored fighting vehicles, according to open-source intelligence enthusiasts. On the next day, the tally amounted to about 85 pieces:
So after 13 new RuAF losses in twt 13+14, a new total for Bilohorivka – 82 vehicles + 2 boats destroyed/abandoned + a bridge section:
17 unknown AFV (likely most BMP-1)
5 PMP trucks (2 likely recovered)
2 BMK boats pic.twitter.com/WwZn5HxL7Y
— Dan (@Danspiun) May 13, 2022
According to estimations by retired Australian Maj.-Gen. Mick Ryan it was probably “probably an entire brigade” that lost a large part of its combat power and the scarce bridging equipment:
20/ Importantly, the Russians lost scarce engineer bridging equipment (and probably combat engineers too). These resources are neither cheap nor available in large quantities. And these are in high demand during an offensive. pic.twitter.com/HeSXk0cpi8
— Mick Ryan, AM (@WarintheFuture) May 13, 2022
“But perhaps most importantly, defeating this assault river crossing has probably denied the Russians an axis of advance they clearly thought was going to be productive for them in their eastern offensive,” Mick Ryan says.
Nevertheless, the head of the Luhansk Regional Military administration, Serhiy Haiday, reported on the evening of 14 May, that Russian troops were again preparing to crosse the Donets river near the village of Bilohorivka.
- Russo-Ukrainian war, day 80: Ukraine has likely won the Battle of Kharkiv; some EU leaders push deal at the cost of Ukrainian sovereignty
- Russo-Ukrainian war, day 79: Ukrainian forces have stalled a new Russian offensive in Donbas
- Russo-Ukrainian war, day 78: Ukrainian army keeps up counterattack to north of Kharkiv
- Russo-Ukrainian war, day 77: Ukrainian troops advanced to within 10 km of the Russian border near Kharkiv
- Russo-Ukrainian war, day 76: Ukrainian Army holding ground in the East, Russian missiles hit Odesa
- Russo-Ukrainian war, day 75: Russian forces amassing on the border near Kharkiv for a new offense
- Russo-Ukrainian war, day 74: heavy fighting in the East, Russians dropped a bomb on school killing 60