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ISW: Russian offensive in Kharkiv Oblast slows amid new tactics, heavy losses

Ukrainian authorities claim Russian losses may have reached 1,740 soldiers in 24 hours near Kharkiv, as the pace of Russia’s offensive in the area has slowed.
Kharkiv oblast 14 may 2024
The assessed control of terrain in Kharkiv Oblast as of 14 May, 2024. Credit: ISW
ISW: Russian offensive in Kharkiv Oblast slows amid new tactics, heavy losses

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported on 14 May that the pace of Russian offensive operations in northern Kharkiv Oblast appears to have decelerated in the past 24 hours.

According to the ISW, this is likely due to the military’s new tactics and heavy Russian losses. The Russian occupying forces are planning to unite the footholds in Lyptsy and Vovchansk and create a border “buffer zone.”

The Head of Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR), Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov, said on 14 May that “the situation in Kharkiv Oblast began stabilizing on the night of 13 May into 14 May as additional Ukrainian units deployed to the area and began defending against Russian advances.”

The Ukrainian General Staff and Khortytsia Group of Forces Spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Nazar Voloshyn, said that Ukrainian forces have started to “clear” the settlement of Vovchansk by targeting visible Russian assault groups operating in the area.

Russian and Ukrainian sources report that Russian forces are employing new tactics, using smaller assault groups of no more than five people to penetrate Ukrainian positions before merging into larger strike groups.

Footage purportedly from Vovchansk shows Russian foot mobile infantry operating in small squad-sized assault groups, corroborating Ukrainian reports. However, a Russian military commentator who previously served as a “Storm-Z” unit instructor criticized this approach, stating that “footage of small Russian assault groups is indicative of poor training and preparation, not an effective new tactic.”

Ukrainian military observer Kostyantyn Mashovets said that “growing Russian losses in this direction are leading to a decrease in the overall pace of offensive operations.” The Ukrainian Chief of the General Staff, Major General Anatoliy Barhylevych, suggested that Russian forces may have lost up to 1,740 soldiers in this area over the past day alone. However, this figure cannot be independently verified.

Suppose the pace of Russian operations remains relatively slower. In that case, Russian forces will likely focus on consolidating new positions and building out a lateral salient in Kharkiv Oblast by merging the Lyptsi and Vovchansk efforts and creating a “buffer zone” in the border area rather than pushing further into the oblast, according to the ISW report.

Other takeaways from the report:

  • Russian forces recently marginally advanced near Lyptsi, Vovchansk, Svatove, Chasiv Yar, Avdiivka, Donetsk City, and Krynky.
  • The Russian MoD is reportedly coercing Russian citizens and migrants into Russian military service through false job opportunities, likely as part of ongoing crypto-mobilization efforts.
  • Ukrainian officials continue efforts to return forcibly deported Ukrainian children to Ukrainian-controlled territory from Russia.

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