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ISW: Russia accumulates grouping in Sumy Oblast to draw Ukrainian soldiers from other fronts

Although the forces are limited in number, their objective is likely to divert Ukrainian troops at the international border.
Sumy Oblast
Consequences of the Russian air attack on Bilopillia in Ukraine’s Sumy Oblast on 8 April 2024. Photo by the regional Prosecutor’s Office.
ISW: Russia accumulates grouping in Sumy Oblast to draw Ukrainian soldiers from other fronts

Ukrainian sources indicated that Russian forces are concentrating limited, understaffed, and incohesive forces in the Sumy direction. Despite a shortage of resources, the Institute for the Study of War, in its new report, said such a grouping of forces would be able to achieve the likely desired effect of drawing and fixing Ukrainian forces in the international border area.

Earlier, Ukrainian officials warned that Russia could start another offensive on a new front to divert the military from eastern Ukraine. On 10 May, Moscow forces began an offensive on Kharkiv Oblast, seizing villages and executing civilians.

On 20 May, the deputy commander of a Ukrainian brigade operating in Kharkiv Oblast reported that Russian forces, including Chechen units, were accumulating in the Sumy direction. However, the limited number of Russian personnel suggests that the Russian objective is to draw and fix Ukrainian forces to the international border area.

Ukrainian military observer Kostyantyn Mashovets also said that the Russian grouping in Kursk Oblast consists of 9,000–10,000 soldiers and up to three under-strength motorized rifle regiments, eight motorized rifle, tank, and infantry battalions, one airborne battalion, and at least two assault detachments at the echelon of a reinforced company or an under-strength battalion. All were redeployed from various units, formations, and military districts.

ISW said it “continues to assess that even limited Russian activity in other areas of the international border below the threshold of Russian offensive operations could stretch Ukrainian forces along a wider front.”

The Washington-based think-tank added that Russian forces will be able to draw and fix Ukrainian forces to this area as long as Russia threatens penetrations of other border areas beyond northern Kharkiv Oblast.

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