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Frontline report: Ukrainian forces make gains in intense clashes in Zaporizhzhia’s Orikhiv direction

Ukrainian assault near occupied Piatykhatky, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, on 17 June 2023. Screenshot from the video
Frontline report: Ukrainian forces make gains in intense clashes in Zaporizhzhia’s Orikhiv direction
On 17 June, Ukrainian forces launched a successful assault in the Orikhiv direction in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, targeting the outskirts of Piatykhatky settlement, while employing different tactics and gaining ground against Russian forces.

Day 479: 17 June

On 17 June, the most intense clashes, once again, took place in the Orikhiv direction.

Here, Ukrainians tried to immediately capitalize on yesterday’s gains and develop their success further. As you remember, Ukrainians have cleared a 1-km wide forest between Zherebianky and Pitykhatky, which secured Ukrainian flanks against a sudden counterattack from the west, and set proper conditions for assaulting the next settlement on the line – Piatykhatky.

Russian sources reported that prior to the attack, Ukrainians covered the whole area with a smokescreen. If we look at the topographic map, we can see that this area is located in the lowlands, which is a perfect condition for the smokescreen as it just fills the hollow space and does not dissipate for a long time.

The first target of Ukrainian forces became the farms north of the settlement. Russian sources reported that Ukrainians used the same tactic as yesterday: they used several armored fighting vehicles to quickly deliver the assault units right to the contact line and immediately withdrew, while several tanks in the distance provided cover for the assault units and returning vehicles. By attacking this strong point, Ukrainians not only gained a second foothold just on the doorstep of Piatykhatky but also fixed Russian troops in the opposite part of the settlement relative to the second attack.

The second attack was conducted from the forest. According to Russian sources, here Ukrainians used a different tactic and mostly used just infantry. This is not surprising because, firstly, Ukrainians were attacking from the forest, and forests are convenient for accumulating personnel, not equipment; and secondly, Ukrainians were already close to the settlement, meaning that they immediately engaged in street fighting, where armor is usually not very useful.

Russian forces struggled to keep Ukrainians out of the outskirts, and after several minutes of fighting, Ukrainians had already entered the western part. Russian sources reported that Ukrainians filled all of their multiple-launch rocket systems with mines and scattered these mines all over the approaches to the settlement, which is why Russian reserves were afraid to launch a counterattack. This left Russian forces only the artillery to rely on.

Due to the heavy artillery fire, Ukrainians temporarily retreated back to the forest but also quickly came back and continued fighting in the center of the settlement. Some analysts say that Ukrainians did not withstand the fire and retreated due to loses until they received reinforcements, while other analysts stated that Ukrainians learned from yesterday’s battle how the Russian artillery works and decided to trigger a mass unloading on the empty region and when empty Grads drove off to the nearest ammo station to reload, they used this time to move in an assault Russian positions with more freedom. It seems like the second version is correct because shortly after the intense artillery fire ended, Russian forces were pushed out of the settlement.

Russian sources reported that Russian forces conducted a tactical retreat and assumed more reliable positions on the hills around this settlement while simultaneously destroying the enemy with fire. In the end, the settlement was declared a grey zone, and as you already noticed, so far, whenever the village becomes a grey zone, it is confirmed to be under full Ukrainian control the next day. It is possible that Russians will still decide to launch an even bigger counterattack and retake Piatykhatky, however, right now, it looks like the Ukrainian attack was successful.

Such a development automatically collapses Russian defensive positions along the gully in front of Stepove and Shcherbaky and gives significantly more freedom in the fields. This puts Russians in Zherebianky in a very inconvenient situation because all the pressure now falls on this settlement. Here, Ukrainians can open at least 3 axes of advance: from the forest, northern gully, and southern gully. On the one hand, unlike Pitykhatky, this village is located on the highlands, giving Russians an advantage. But on the other hand, this village is 5 times smaller than Pitykhatky, making it more vulnerable to artillery devastation and comprehensive attacks from multiple directions.

In our daily frontline report, we pair up with the military blogger Reporting from Ukraine to keep you informed about what’s happening on the battlefield in the Russo-Ukrainian war.

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