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How Ukraine pulled off its daring counteroffensive at Balakliia (and what is the next target)

ukrainian counteroffensive Balakliya
How Ukraine pulled off its daring counteroffensive at Balakliia (and what is the next target)
Source: Texty
Translated by: Yuri Zoria
In its most daring counteroffensive since the Russian army’s retreat in March, Ukraine has nearly liberated occupied Balakliia (Balakliya) in the Kharkiv Oblast. Ukrainian online newspaper Texty follows how the Balakliia counteroffensive developed based on open sources, mainly the so-called  “Russian military bloggers” and information from international OSINT investigators. Here are their findings with the latest updates by Euromaidan Press — and what comes next.

What we know so far

Throughout the last week, Ukrainian troops started a series of assaults on different fronts: Kupiansk direction (Kharkiv Oblast), Kherson direction (Kherson Oblast’s half west of the Dnipro river), and in the directions of Melitopol (Zaporizhzhia Oblast) and Vuhledar (Donetsk Oblast).

Official sources announced an informational blackout, but some data can be obtained from the reports of Ukraine’s General Staff and officials. It seems that everyone knows everything, but no one says anything.

Ukraine regains 700 sq km, pushes Russians back 50 km in counteroffensive

Though in the world with Twitter, it’s difficult to remain silent, especially when reviews of the Ukrainian offensive are covered online by international experts.

When all attention was focused on Kherson Oblast the day before yesterday (6 September), Ukrainian troops began an offensive on Balakliia from the west. During the same day, it was possible to liberate a suburb of Balakliia, the village of Verbivka.

The reports about this started circulating on the internet closer to the evening, primarily on the channels of the so-called “voenkors” – the Russian “military bloggers.” Earlier that day they claimed that everything was fine and there was no threat, then in the early evening, the reports stated that the Ukrainian Armed Forces not only liberated Verbivka, but also seized the military warehouses in Balakliia – those famous for powerful explosions back in 2017.

6 September

Sep. 6 reports from the Russian Telegram channel Voenkor Kotenok Z (note that they aren’t necessarily fully true):
15:32 Ukrainians “managed to advance to Verbivka…”
16:05 “There’s no panicking. Mostly the mobilizees were stationed in Balakliia. Now reserves are moving to Balakliia… This isn’t about a deep breakthrough…”
17:31 In the morning the Ukrainian troops “took hold of the [Balakliia] outskirts, but the main thrust of the attack is the highway Balakliia-Kupiansk… At the moment, battles are ongoing, ZSU [Ukrainian Armed Forces] failed to cut off Balakliia…”
17:40 “Northwest of Balakliia, the enemy (i.e. Ukrainian troops – Ed.) attacked and entered the settlement of Verbivka, but didn’t pass to the 65th arsenal (the large artillery warehouses – Ed.)…”
Also, the milbloggers turned the shell depots into “Schrödinger’s warehouses”: at first they reported that the Armed Forces of Ukraine failed to capture them, then that there was nothing in the warehouses, finally that there was something, but it has been taken away. And when the Ukrainian military finally seized all the warehouses, the military correspondents wrote that there were a lot of weapons and ammunition that Russians failed to take away.

As the night approached, the Russian milbloggers wrote that the Ukrainian troops were already halfway to Volokhiv Yar and in the village of Yakovenkove.

Sep. 6 message published by Russian “voenkor” Telegram channel Starshe Eddy at 23:03: “As of 8 p.m. the enemy failed to enter Balakliia proper. Khokhly (ethnic slur for Ukrainians, – Ed.) are still trying to reach the highway Balakliia-Kupiansk, but “stranded” in Yakovenkove, didn’t enter Volokhiv Yar, are carrying out artillery strikes on Shevchenkove. Izium proper is quiet, leaving alone the massive HIMARS strikes in the morning and evening…”

7 September

Yesterday, September 7, events unfolded dynamically as well. Again, there were no reports from Ukrainian officials, and most of the information came from Russian milbloggers and from Twitter posts, particularly, the reports on the liberation of certain settlements.

The liberation of the villages of Nova Husarivka and Bairak on the western bank of the Siverskyi Donets was confirmed. After the start of the fighting in Balakliia (Balakliya), these villages were completely surrounded.

Then there were various reports about the liberation of Volokhiv Yar and the village of Semenivka.


The liberation of Volokhiv Yar was confirmed later today, as the video of Ukrainian soldiers raising the national flag in the village started circulating on the internet:

As of the evening of 7 September and the morning of 8 September, we can assume that the situation in Kharkiv Oblast looks like this:

The Ukrainian military advanced from Pryshyb in two directions – towards Balakliia (Balakliya) through Verbivka and to the northeast towards Yakovenkove. These two prongs of attack enabled the cutting off of the Balakliia-Shevchenkove highway by taking it under fire control, thus virtually cutting off two Russian groups of troops. On the evening of 6 September, the Armed Forces of Ukraine reached Yakovenkove, ​​and one part of them started a battle while the other continued the advance to Volokhiv Yar and further north to Semenivka.

The situation in Balakliia proper is currently unknown, there is no official confirmation of the liberation yet, so it can be assumed that fighting continues in the city.

The latest photos and videos from Balakliia (Balakliya) show many parts of the city under Ukrainian control.

Also, the Ukrainian troops have reportedly liberated Shevchenkove:

The liberation status of the settlements along the Balakliia-Shevchenkove highway remains unclear, apart from Volokhiv Yar: Yakovenkove, Studenok, Semenivka – there was no information about their liberation by the Ukrainian forces, except from “Russian military bloggers.”

The assumptions are as follows: Ukrainian troops entered from the direction of Balakliia (Balakliya) and passed “through the rear” of the first line of Russian defense. Ukrainians started fighting and quickly advanced to Semenivka, cutting through the Russian defense.

A number of Russian units of the SOBR — special units of the National Guard of Russia — found themselves in an operational encirclement. These units don’t have a large number of heavy weapons.

Russia didn’t expect a Ukrainian thrust in this direction. Moreover, according to the posts of “Russian military bloggers,” the first two days of the battle didn’t see the reserves pulled up to the first line of defense. They only mentioned artillery and sometimes aviation support. And taking into account the fact that these areas were covered by the SOBR, there are definitely not a large number of Russian army units here.

Also, after cutting the main road Balakliia-Shevchenkove, Russia can transfer troops in this direction either “through the fields” or by smaller roads between settlements.

What’s next for the offensive at Balakliya?

The intention of the Ukrainian General Staff is obvious, the “Russian military bloggers” and Ukrainian commentators have already written about it. The main target of this operation is Kupiansk, a large logistics hub thanks to which the Izium group of Russian forces holds on.

During the past weeks, the Ukrainian artillery was eliminating the Russian military in Izium, and even more so – thanks to successful counterattacks, the Ukrainian troops managed to advance to Dovhenke the Russians occupied in June.

Counteroffensive Balakliya Kharkiv Oblas Ukrainian-Russian war

Even by besieging Kupiansk, the Armed Forces of Ukraine will make the situation difficult for the Izium group as it would cut its key logistics routes.


Source: Texty
Translated by: Yuri Zoria
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