Ukraine conducted a successful counteroffensive and is preparing for a new one. Now Russia must adapt to the plans of the Ukrainian army. We analyze the situation at the front on the 210th day of the full-scale invasion

Oleksiy Yarmolenko
Tetyana Lohvynenko
Ukraine conducted a successful counteroffensive and is preparing for a new one. Now Russia must adapt to the plans of the Ukrainian army. We analyze the situation at the front on the 210th day of the full-scale invasion

Ukrainian military personnel on the outskirts of liberated Izyum in the Kharkiv region, September 17, 2022.

From September 6 to 12, the Ukrainian military conducted a successful counteroffensive operation and liberated almost the entire Kharkiv region. The Russians tried to build a defense line along the Oskil River, but the Defense Forces of Ukraine continued to push and did not allow them to gain a foothold in these territories. Now the occupiers are actually forced to defend themselves and adapt to the actions of the Ukrainian army, which has also forced the Siverskyi Donets river and is beginning to put pressure on the north of the Donetsk region and the western part of Luhansk region. In response to the failure of its troops, the Kremlin decided to immediately hold "referendums" in the occupied territories and create the conditions for at least a partial mobilization in Russia.

Over the past 10 days, Western media have actively commented on the blitzkrieg of Ukrainian troops in the Kharkiv region. It was almost as widely discussed as the death of Britainʼs Queen Elizabeth II. Foreign media questioned experts, analyzed the course of events, tried to determine the prerequisites and potential consequences of the Russiansʼ failure. The New York Times reported the details of how this counteroffensive was prepared and the role of the United States and Great Britain in it.

Preparations for the counteroffensive began after President Zelensky told the generals that it was worth demonstrating to the Russian occupiers: the Ukrainian army is capable of a powerful operation. On his order, the military prepared a plan that provided for a large-scale offensive in the south of Ukraine. They should liberate Kherson and cut off Mariupol from supply routes. However, both Ukrainian and American generals believed that this would lead to heavy losses, and that Ukraine might not be able to capture such large territories. After that, long discussions began between the representatives of Ukraine and the USA, during which the Ukrainian military increasingly shared their plans. The partners conducted "war games"; that showed that the operation could end in failure. Ukrainian generals began to prepare another plan.

Instead of one large counteroffensive, the Ukrainian army decided to conduct two small ones: in Kherson region and in Kharkiv region. Ukraine, the United States and Great Britain jointly evaluated this plan and determined that it could be successful and give Zelensky a big victory. However, to implement this plan, Ukraine needed significant military assistance from the United States. The counteroffensive in Kharkiv region was successful. However, in Ukraine, it is believed that for long-term success, the military will still need to achieve the goals of the canceled operation — to recapture Kherson, liberate the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant and cut off the supply of Russian troops through Mariupol.

Zelensky also confirms this. He emphasized that despite the "certain lull" at the front, Ukraine is actually preparing for the next stage of liberating territories. This means that before the onset of cold weather and rains, the Ukrainian army will try to conduct at least one more large-scale counteroffensive, break through the Russian defenses and liberate its territories. Now, after the escape of the Russians from the Kharkiv region, it is important for the Ukrainian military to prevent the occupiers from gaining a foothold in new positions, to restore the combat capability of the units and to divert them to new directions.

Iranian drones can interfere with the Ukrainian army. For the first time in Ukraine, it was recorded that the Russians are using equipment that the Russian Federation agreed on back in the summer. Currently, it is known for sure about the use of at least one type of drone — Shahed-136. These are Iranian kamikaze drones. The Ukrainian military already complains about them and calls them a serious problem, especially for military equipment. They are small and fly at fairly low altitudes, so it is difficult to shoot them down. The Ukrainian army hopes to receive equipment or weapons from the West to fight against Iranian drones. Although the first successes are already there — on September 20, the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported the destruction of one such drone.

The Russian media, citing their own sources, wrote that the Kremlin decided to put the issue of "referendums" in the occupied territories "on hold" due to the successful counteroffensive of the Ukrainian army. In the Kherson region, collaborators even publicly stated that the pseudo-voting was postponed for security reasons.

However, on September 19, the so-called "L/DPR" “parliaments” suddenly simultaneously decided to turn to their leaders with the initiative to immediately organize "referendums" on joining Russia. The “LPR” was the first to make such a request, and a few hours later — the “DPR” did the same. They believe that this will bring "peace and security to the republics." The same evening, the leader of the Donetsk militants, Denis Pushilin, called the leader of the Luhansk separatists Leonid Pasechnik and offered to "join forces" to prepare pseudo-votes. The next day, they were joined by the occupied parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. In fact, in two days, Russian collaborators in the occupied territories quickly announced the holding of "referendums" on September 23-27.

As the Russian publication Meduza writes, in the Kremlin, Putin was influenced by that part of his entourage, which advocates the escalation of the conflict and mobilization in Russia. After the successful counteroffensive of Ukraine in the Kharkiv region, negative and even panicky moods began to intensify in the occupied territories, as local collaborators are now seriously worried about the arrival of the Ukrainian army and their future fate. In addition, on September 20, the Russian State Duma promptly adopted a law that introduces the concepts of "mobilization" and "wartime" into Russian legislation, as well as increased responsibility for desertion and disobeying orders in the army and introduced punishment for voluntary surrender. All this creates prerequisites for at least partial mobilization in Russia.

Meduza journalists write: the Kremlin expects that the annexation of the occupied territories to the Russian Federation will force Ukraine to abandon further counteroffensives. And if the Ukrainian military continues to liberate the territories, Russia is preparing to announce mobilization. The Ukrainian authorities have already assured that no pseudo-voting will change the situation on the battlefield, and the counteroffensive will continue.

Russia decides to mobilize people, but most likely it will be extremely ineffective. This will demonstrate to the Russians that, in fact, "everything is not going according to the plan", contrary to what they have been told for seven months on TV. In addition, if the Russians really wanted to fight in Ukraine, they would have been standing in the queues at the military commissariat for a long time. Accordingly, the mobilization in Russia can be very similar to what happens in the “L/DPR”, when men are grabbed on the streets, and most of them hide and donʼt leave their homes. This threatens a serious increase in social discontent, which can cause protests or even riots. It is obvious that the Kremlin is aware of all these risks, but the situation at the front is so bad that it is ready to raise the stakes there. It is also impossible to predict the reaction of the West to another annexation of Ukrainian territories, but it will definitely lead to an even greater strengthening of sanctions against Russia.

Counteroffensive of the Armed Forces in Kharkiv region

  1. The Ukrainian military liberated the village of Verbivka west of Balaklia and moved north.

  2. Defense forces of Ukraine reached the village of Volokhiv Yar. To the south of Balaklia, the villages of Bayrak and Nova Husarivka were liberated. The first information about the liberation of Balaklia appeared.

  3. The Ukrainian military reached the village of Shevchenkove. The town of Balaklia was officially liberated.

  4. The Ukrainian military liberated the villages of Chkalovske and Shevchenkove. The first photos of the Defense Forces of Ukraine on the outskirts of Kupyansk and on the banks of the Oskil River have appeared.

  5. The Ukrainian military entered Kupyansk and raised the Ukrainian flag there. The city is divided by the Oskil River, its left-bank part still remains occupied. The Defense Forces of Ukraine also reached the northern outskirts of Izyum. In addition, the Ukrainian military moved to the north of the Kharkiv region — towards Vovchansk.

  6. The Ukrainian military entered the village of Kozacha Lopan, north of Kharkiv, and the village of Hoptivka. In addition, the Russians left the cities of Izyum and Vovchansk, as well as the villages of Velykyi Burluk and Dvorichna.

  7. Ukrainian military entered the cities of Izyum, Vovchansk and the village of Velykyi Burluk.

Kharkiv region

The Ukrainian army successfully conducted a counteroffensive and almost completely cleared the Kharkiv region of the invaders. The Russians left the territories north of Kharkiv, as well as the cities of Balaklia, Izyum, Vovchansk, and Kupyansk. They still control a small part of the region on the left bank of the Oskil River, but both the Russians themselves and the Ukrainian military report fighting in this area as well. Most likely, the occupiers will move to the administrative border of the Luhansk region, where they will prepare the defense of the town of Svatove. This is an important point for supplying their troops in the Sievierodonetsk-Lysychansk agglomeration.

In total, the Defense Forces of Ukraine liberated more than 400 settlements and more than 9,000 square kilometers. This is quite a lot, but the Russian Federation still controls almost 110,000 square kilometers of Ukrainian territory.

In the liberated territories of the Kharkiv region, the Ukrainian army also reached the Russian border. Pro-Russian Telegram channels panicked, there were reports of preparations for the defense of Belgorod, but the Defense Forces of Ukraine did not enter the Russian territory. Though when the Ukrainian troops reached the border, logistics points important for the Russian army became within the range of damage of the Ukrainian weapons. This is, in particular, the town of Valuyky in the Belgorod region — a large railway junction is located here, and supplies for the Russian army are carried out mainly by rail. In order to divert logistics away from Ukrainian borders and protect it from fire systems, the occupiers will have to change it — make it longer and more complex. All this takes time, and regular deliveries are the basis of a successful offensive and defense.

In response to the successes of the Ukrainian troops, the Russians decided to strike at the critical infrastructure of Kharkiv and the region, in particular at the Zmiyiv TPP and Kharkiv TPP-5. As a result of these strikes in Kharkiv region, Sumy region, Poltava region, and Dnipropetrovsk region, certain interruptions in electricity and water supply occurred. The purpose of these strikes is to sow panic and create discomfort for the civilian population. Such shelling has absolutely no effect either on the fighting capacity of the Ukrainian army or on the situation at the front, therefore it will not help Russia win the war. In addition, the consequences of the accident were quickly eliminated — within a day, electricity was restored in all regions.

Officially, the Ukrainian army has not yet moved to the left bank of the Oskil River. However, military personnel from the KRAKEN special unit have already published videos from the left-bank part of Kupyansk. It is still unknown who controls the neighboring village of Kupyansk-Vuzlovy. Meanwhile, to the south of Izyum, where the rivers Oskil and Siverskyi Donets meet, the Defense Forces of Ukraine forced Siverskyi Donets itself and liberated the village of Studenok.



In the north of the Donetsk region, almost simultaneously with the counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region, Ukrainian troops forded the Siverskyi Donets river and began an attack on the city of Lyman. First, the village of Ozerne was liberated, and later the villages of Stary Karavan, Brusivka, Shchurove, and Dibrova.

The Ukrainian army is trying to approach Lyman from other sides as well. Defense Forces of Ukraine crossed the Siverskyi Donets near Sviatohirsk and liberated the city. Then they moved towards Lyman and liberated the village of Yarova — a photo of the Ukrainian flag appeared in it. Therefore, the Defense Forces approach Lyman from three sides: from the west, east and south. This creates good conditions to surround and liberate the city. The area around Lyman is covered with forests, and Ukrainian units can move more safely and unexpectedly enter the flanks or even the rear of the occupiers.

When Ukraine takes Lyman, it will open the way to the de-occupation of the city of Kreminna in the Luhansk region — it is also located in the forests. And if Ukrainian troops cross the Oskil River in Kharkiv region, the Russians will have to defend themselves along the entire administrative border of Luhansk region — from the village of Troitske through the town of Svatove and all the way to Kreminna.

The Ukrainian army is trying to create the most favorable conditions for this offensive on Luhansk region and is starting to press from the side of Lysychansk as well. Defense forces of Ukraine entered the village of Bilogorivka, west of the city. That is, the Russian army no longer controls the entire Luhansk region, as it was from the beginning of July. The advance of the Defense Forces of Ukraine from Bilogorivka further to Lysychansk or along the Siverskyi Donets River will create another center of pressure on the Russian defense and secure the left bank of the river for Ukrainian troops who will advance to Kreminna.

The only place on the front where the occupiers are still trying to advance and have at least some victories is the Bakhmut direction. In order to take Bakhmut and the surrounding villages, Russia threw there Wagner private military companyʼs forces. However, to the northeast of Bakhmut, in the area of Soledar, the Russian military has been standing still for several weeks. And the Ukrainian army here also resorts to tactical counterattacks, in particular along the Bakhmut-Lysychansk highway.

The Wagnerites continue to move very slowly further east and south of Bakhmut. In the east, the occupiers have started fighting on the outskirts of the city and are shelling high-rise buildings. In the south, after the capture of Kodema, they are trying to capture the villages of Mykolaivka and Odradivka and reach the village of Kurdyumivka. The railway passes through it to the Ukrainian positions at the former checkpoint Mayorsk, where the defense has been held since February 24. If Kurdyumivka is taken, the Defense Forces of Ukraine will have to withdraw from Mayorsk in order to level the front line. Closer to the outskirts of Bakhmut, Russian troops are trying to storm the villages of Vesela Dolyna and Zaitseve, but they are not succeeding.

On the western outskirts of Donetsk, between the cities of Avdiyivka and Maryinka, the occupiers are trying to advance, but without success. Since the beginning of August, they have only managed to push the Ukrainian military out of the village of Pisky and some fortified positions around Donetsk. There is no question of taking other settlements, and the offensive potential of the occupiers in this direction has almost been exhausted.

The situation is the same in the districts of the city of Vugledar and the village of Velyka Novosilka. Here, the Russians actually stopped trying to advance, and their minor forays are repulsed by the Ukrainian military.

So, in the last two months, the Russians captured only a few villages in the Donetsk region. If the Russian army does not change significantly in its composition or number, it will not be able to occupy the entire Donetsk region.

Not for the first time since the beginning of the full-scale invasion in the occupied Donbas, collaborators were eliminated. On September 16, an explosion in his office killed the so-called general prosecutor of the "LPR" Serhiy Gorenko and his deputy. Ukraine did not take responsibility for this explosion and believes that it is the result of clashes between local militants. A few days before the Russian invasion, Gorenko himself showed off on social media how he fired a howitzer at Ukrainian positions in the area of Stanytsia Luhanska. At that time, the Minsk Agreements were still in force, which prohibited the firing of such howitzers.



Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions

In the Zaporizhzhia region, the situation at the front has remained unchanged almost since spring. Ukraine and Russia are mutually shelling each other with artillery, but they are not trying to advance.

The Russians continue to fire across the Dnipro River at Nikopol and Marhanets, and the intensity of shelling has slightly decreased at the Zaporizhzhia NPP. This was probably influenced by the fact that the IAEA left two of its observers at the station. In addition, the organization adopted a resolution demanding that the Russian Federation withdraw its troops from the territory of the ZNPP. So far, Russia has not reacted to it. Energoatom was able to bring a convoy of trucks with equipment to the Zaporizhzhia NPP to keep the plant running safely.

The Russians continue to regularly talk about the fact that they allegedly prevent the Ukrainian army from landing across the Dnipro at the ZNPP or near the station. They say the Ukrainian Defense Forces are trying to cross to the other shore in boats or barges. The Russian Ministry of Defense even showed a video of how their helicopters allegedly destroyed one of these barges. However, it turned out that they actually fired at the bridge support.

The stories about the attempts of the Ukrainian army to land on Energodar and the ZNPP are most likely made up: it is impossible to take the station and the satellite city exclusively by infantry without heavy equipment and stable and regular supplies. Therefore, a few dozen Ukrainian fighters who have been ferried across the river will not be able to liberate the ZNPP and Energodar and hold them until the arrival of reinforcements (it is also unclear where they should come from). The only possible way is to build a pontoon crossing over the Dnipro, but this is also almost impossible, because the river in this place is quite wide, and besides, it is completely bombarded by the Russian army.

In the Kherson region, the Ukrainian army continues to counterattack. This is not happening as quickly as in the Kharkiv region, due to the peculiarities of the terrain (steppe) and the reinforcements of the Russians, which they brought in for protection. However, the Defense Forces of Ukraine are advancing and liberating the territory. In particular, OC South confirmed the liberation of five settlements: Vysokopillya, Novovoznesenske, Biloghirka, Sukhyi Stavok, and Myrolyubivka. In total, the Ukrainian army liberated almost 500 square kilometers in the Kherson region.

In view of the summary of the General Staff, it can be assumed that the Ukrainian military has the greatest success in the north of the Kherson region and in the expansion of the bridgehead on the left bank of the Ingulets River — both along it and deep into the occupied territory. If the Ukrainian army breaks through from here to the Beryslav-Davнdiv Brid road or goes all the way to the Dnipro, the entire Russian group in the north of the Kherson region will be cut off from supplies and will actually be encircled. Analysts of the Institute for the Study of War believe that in the coming weeks, the Defense Forces of Ukraine will be able to liberate most of the Kherson region, if not the entire right bank, including Kherson. And the Russians are trying to retreat to the left bank of the Dnieper in a more thorough and organized manner than during the "regrouping" in the Kharkiv region, when they left behind a lot of equipment.



Arms supplies

The USA announced another $600 million aid package to the Ukrainian army. It has a pretty standard set for the past few weeks: additional missiles for HIMARS, shells for 105mm and 155mm artillery, including high-precision ones, as well as armored personnel carriers, mine clearance equipment, anti-drone systems and much more.

For the first time, the Germans agreed to transfer armored vehicles to Ukraine. At a Bundeswehr conference, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht publicly expressed her admiration for the counteroffensive of the Ukrainian army in the Kharkiv region and the role that fast armored vehicles played in the operational breakthrough of the Russian defense. Therefore, Germany agreed to transfer 50 of its Dingo armored vehicles to Ukraine. The Germans also promised to provide two more MARS multiple rocket launchers and four Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled artillery units.

The German authorities also agreed to sell 18 RCH-155 wheeled self-propelled guns to Ukraine. It takes time to manufacture them, so the first deliveries are expected as early as 2025. The RCH-155 is actually the same Panzerhaubitze 2000, but instead of tracks, it rides on the wheels of the Boxer armored personnel carrier.

The Germans continue the so-called circular exchanges in Europe. Germany still refuses to transfer its heavy armored vehicles to Ukraine, but is ready to provide them to its allies if they want to give something to the Ukrainian army. Germany and Greece agreed that the Greeks would send 40 Soviet BMPs to Ukraine, and in return would receive German Marder combat vehicles. A similar agreement was also reached with Slovenia: Ukraine will receive the Slovenian modernization of old Soviet tanks T-55 under the name M-55S, in return the Germans will send the Slovenians 40 military transport vehicles.

Recently, the idea that Ukraine should receive Western tanks is the most frequently heard in the public space. The fact that it is necessary is emphasized by the Ukrainian authorities, and journalists ask about it at briefings from Western politicians. European allies have already handed over tanks to the Ukrainian army, but only of Soviet origin. Now Ukraine wants to get Western-style equipment and is asking Germany and the USA for it. The Germans still refuse and say that they are not ready to do it alone. The USA is also currently not giving Ukraine either tanks or long-range ATACMS missiles to hit targets at a distance of 300 kilometers.

Translated from Ukrainian by Anton Semyzhenko.

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A Russian tank near the city of Balaklia, Kharkiv region, which was captured by the Ukrainian military during a counteroffensive, on September 10, 2022.