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Frontline report: Ukraine seizes initiative after wildfires ravage Russian positions in Luhansk Oblast

The arrival of over 50 British self-propelled guns, AS-90, has significantly bolstered Ukrainian artillery capabilities, potentially shifting the balance of power in the Serebryansky forest area.
frontline Luhansk direction
Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video
Frontline report: Ukraine seizes initiative after wildfires ravage Russian positions in Luhansk Oblast

Day 811: 14 May

On 14 May, there were many updates in the direction of Lyman. Here, large forest fires have completely changed the balance of power in the Serebryansky forest.

frontline Luhansk direction
Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video

This direction is the stage of two main cities, Lyman to the west, which is under Ukrainian control, and Kreminna to the East, which is under Russian control. Ukrainians and Russians use the cities as headquarters and main bases of operations, from where they organize, reinforce, and rotate their units from the frontline.

frontline Luhansk direction
Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video

The main goal of Russian forces in this direction is to advance both through the fields and the forest to take control of the Ukrainian city of Lyman. Ukrainians, above all, are attempting to drain the Russian offensive efforts and undercut them from the forest, thereby setting the stage for a future counteroffensive operation in the direction of Kreminna.

frontline Luhansk direction
Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video

Over the past months, Russians have advanced through the fields towards the Ukrainian settlements of Terny and Yampolivka, situated behind the Zherebets River, which divides the region in two.

As you remember from previous reports, Russians have thrown themselves at the Ukrainian defenses in these settlements but have been beaten back by Ukrainian defenders time and time again.

The situation is very different to the south of these fields in the Serebryansky forest area. The terrain here makes it impossible for Russians to support their attacks with large groups of armored vehicles, which basically have zero mobility in the dense forest area. With little to no access to armored support, Russians had resorted to pure infantry assaults but could not secure any significant territorial gains.

frontline Luhansk direction
Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video

This has caused the frontline here to be much more static, characterized by large Russian artillery barrages.

Ukrainians, in turn, have focused on undermining Russian attempts to accumulate enough infantry for an assault by performing raids on Russian trenches and dropping drone grenades.

For months, Ukrainians have conducted intense artillery counterbattery fires on Russian positions to combat the extensive Russian artillery support. Recently released geolocated footage of the 45th artillery brigade shows the destruction of a Russian self-propelled gun, MSTA-S. Further released footage from the 3rd assault brigade also shows the destruction of a Russian heavy artillery gun, MSTA-B.

The Institute for the Study of War reported that in an interview, a Ukrainian officer stated that Russians have a five-to-one artillery advantage over Ukrainians in the Serebryansky forest area. However, the Ukrainian officer described the situation as ‘more or less stable.’ He stated that, in comparison, Russians maintain a ten-to-one advantage in other areas of the front.

The 3rd assault brigade also released footage showcasing their training with the recently delivered British self-propelled gun, AS-90. Ukraine has received over 50 of these weapon systems, severely bolstering the Ukrainian artillery capabilities. The brigade stated that while they were firing on a training range so far, these guns would soon be deployed to the frontline as well.

Recently, Ukrainians released geolocated drone footage showcasing the extent of the damage to the forest. Intense artillery fire, grenades, kamikaze drones, and stray armored vehicles on such a static part of the frontline have destroyed the forest entirely, leaving debris and destroyed trees everywhere.

frontline Luhansk direction
Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video

Simultaneously, Russians had fully exhausted their combat capabilities in the north and were slowly being pushed back by Ukrainian counterattacks.

Ukrainians realized that this was their time to strike. As Ukrainians did not have superiority in manpower or artillery, they had to find another way to break the Russian defensive lines while maintaining their forces.

The destruction of the forest had left a massive amount of dead shrubbery, trees, and other burnable objects scattered throughout the forest, and most importantly enough, around positions that Russians were occupying.

frontline Luhansk direction
Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video

Additionally, Russians had established numerous ammunition depots of various sizes to support their infantry in the forest. Ukrainians were targeting these improvised storages with artillery and drone-dropped grenades, and as these munition depots started burning, fires began to spread throughout the forest. Shortly thereafter, released footage shows huge smoke clouds filling up the sky.

Russian military bloggers quickly stated that these forest fires were only raging in the Ukrainian section of the forest. However, satellite analysis confirms that while the fire had spread to Ukrainian positions as well, it was predominantly raging in Russian sections of the forest.

Such a natural disaster has quickly turned this static frontline into a highly volatile situation. In such an inferno, it is impossible for either side to conduct offensive operations or even safely stay in their current positions.

frontline Luhansk direction
Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video

As the satellite data shows, Russian sections of the forest were hit much harder than Ukrainian sections, so Ukrainians will likely be able to take advantage of this sudden development. In the aftermath of the forest fires, the Ukrainian Khortytsia group of forces spokesperson, Colonel Nazar Voloshyn, stated that Ukrainian forces had improved their tactical position in the Serebryansky forest.

The situation remains unclear for now, as Russian and Ukrainian units in the area have been too busy adapting to this event to publish any credible frontline updates. Russian military analysts fear that Ukrainians will be able to take advantage of the situation by taking control over a large part of the forest, putting even more pressure on the already depleted Russian salient to the North and the city of Kreminna.

frontline Luhansk direction
Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video

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

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