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ISW: Russia amassing more troops near Ukraine border north of Kharkiv Oblast

Reports indicate Russia concentrating troops in western Belgorod near Ukraine border, likely for offensive operations to expand presence in northeastern Ukraine.
Russian soldiers in Ukraine. Photo:
ISW: Russia amassing more troops near Ukraine border north of Kharkiv Oblast

Russian forces are reportedly amassing troops of unspecified size in western Belgorod Oblast, near the Ukrainian border, “likely to fix and draw Ukrainian forces to the area and prepare for offensive operations that aim to expand the Russian foothold in the international border area in northeastern Ukraine,” the US-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reports.

On May 26, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reported that Russian forces are preparing for new offensive actions and are amassing troops of an unspecified size approximately 90 kilometers northwest of Kharkiv City, near the Ukrainian border.

ISW says Zelenskyy is likely referring to the Grayvoron-Borisovka-Proletarskiy area in western Belgorod Oblast, where recent satellite imagery from Planet Labs PBC shows increased Russian military activity at local depots and warehouses.

Russian villages of Grayvoron, Borisovka, and Proletarksiy in Belgorod Oblast northwest from the areas of Russia’s latest invasion of Kharkiv Oblast. Map: deepstatemap.

The exact size of the potential Russian force concentration in the Grayvoron-Borisovka-Proletarskiy area remains unknown. On May 26, Ukrainian State Border Service Representative Andrei Demchenko mentioned that Russian forces might initiate offensive operations into Sumy Oblast or regions of Kharkiv Oblast bordering Sumy Oblast, aiming to extend and engage Ukrainian forces more extensively along the northeastern Ukrainian border.

The Grayvoron-Borisovka-Proletarskiy area would notably offer Russian forces opportunities to launch offensive operations to the south in the direction of Zolochiv and Bohodukhiv, two Ukrainian towns northwest of Kharkiv City within 25 kilometers of the international border, or to the west in the direction of settlements along the P-45 highway that connects Bohodukhiv with Sumy City.

According to ISW, Russian forces might launch offensive operations in one or both directions, aiming to compel Ukrainian forces to allocate manpower and materials across a wider section of the border in Kharkiv and Sumy oblasts. Additionally, Russian forces are amassing limited troops in Kursk and Bryansk oblasts near the Sumy Oblast border. Even these smaller concentrations could be strategically intended to draw and pin Ukrainian forces in the international border area, achieving a potentially desired tactical effect.

ISW wrote that Russian forces are currently reinforcing the Northern Grouping of Forces near the international border to its projected full capacity and are likely to undertake only limited offensive operations along the Sumy-Kharkiv axis until this group reaches its target strength. These limited offensives, even though restrained, will exert pressure by stretching Ukrainian manpower and resources across a broader front and could enable Russian forces to gain tactical positions that support future operations either northwest of Kharkiv City or towards Sumy City.

The [Russian] Northern Grouping of Forces, even at the upper limit of its reported end strength, will lack the necessary manpower needed to conduct a successful operation to envelop, encircle, or seize Kharkiv or Sumy cities, however,” the ISW says.

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