The Russians were unable to organize a defense in the Kharkiv region. Now the Ukrainian army can advance on Luhansk region. We analyze the situation at the front on the 220th day of the full-scale invasion — with maps

Oleksiy Yarmolenko
Tetyana Lohvynenko
The Russians were unable to organize a defense in the Kharkiv region. Now the Ukrainian army can advance on Luhansk region. We analyze the situation at the front on the 220th day of the full-scale invasion — with maps

Teroborona fighters conduct military exercises in Kryvyi Rih, September 28, 2022.

The Russian army was unable to organize a defense along the Oskil River in the Kharkiv region. The Ukrainian military successfully forced it in at least three places. Now the occupiers are threatened with an encirclement in the city of Lyman in the Donetsk region and the beginning of fighting for the Luhansk region.

On September 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the so-called partial mobilization. In the decree, the number of mobilized is classified, and the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation, Sergei Shoigu, said that they plan to call up 300,000 people. Russian media reports that the plan is actually much larger — approximately 1.2 million people.

Immediately after the announcement of the partial mobilization, the Russian military commissars began to send summonses to men en masse. Despite the authoritiesʼ attempts to explain that only people of a certain age and with military service experience will be mobilized, reports began to arrive from all Russian regions that the process is being carried out indiscriminately. Even pro-Russian Telegram channels criticize the military commissars and the mobilization process, as well as the bad attitude towards the mobilized. As a result of the announcement, Russians began to leave the country en masse — queues for several days formed at all borders with countries that still let the Russians in. The situation became so serious that the local authorities had to deploy mobile military offices at the borders and serve summonses to those who want to leave. At least 200,000 Russians left the country after Putin announced the mobilization — itʼs about the same number that left the Russian Federation during the entire time of the full-scale invasion.

According to the Russian mass media, the Kremlin is discussing the need to close the borders, because there are quite a lot of people who want to leave the country. So far, this is not being done due to the mass dissatisfaction of the Russians. Even the opposition sociological center Levada shows that in September Putinʼs rating began to decline: the level of support fell to 77%, and every fifth citizen is dissatisfied with his policy. These trends are likely to intensify, especially when reports of the deaths of the mobilized begin to arrive in the regions.

Western and Ukrainian experts assure that Russia does not have enough resources to prepare and equip such a large number of mobilized people. This is due to Western sanctions and active battles at the front, which involved the most combat-ready Russian units. There will also be a lack of experienced officers to train the mobilized, as well as modern equipment: the Russian Federation has lost a lot of it and must deconserve old stocks. The motivation of such soldiers is also taken into account: they will be thrown into battle on the territory of another country without training and with old weapons.

On September 27, the Russians completed pseudo-referendums in the occupied territories of Ukraine. There, as expected, almost 100% of participants voted for joining the Russian Federation. "Votings" were traditionally held under machine gun barrels — armed Russian soldiers stood at "polling stations" and walked with "commission members" from house to house and forced local residents to participate in "referendums".

The main intrigue is what will happen after the official annexation, because Russia does not fully control any of the four occupied Ukrainian regions, but will consider them its territory. Presumably, the very status of the war will also change for Russia, since now it will formally continue already on "its territory".

Against the background of Putinʼs declarations of support for the "referendums", repeated threats of a nuclear strike sounded. The President of the Russian Federation stated that in the event of a "threat to territorial integrity," Russia is ready to use "all available means." In fact, this means that if the Ukrainian Defense Forces continue to counteroffensive in the territories that Russia has recognized as its own, the Russian Federation may use nuclear weapons. After the failure in the Kharkiv region, the Russian army needs a pause to regroup, as well as to prepare the mobilized, so that in a few months, and ideally in the spring of 2023, a new large-scale offensive can be carried out. For this, Putin is trying to intimidate Ukraine so that the Ukrainian Defense Forces stop advancing, and the West to slow down its military aid or stop doing it altogether. It is extremely difficult to predict the Kremlinʼs behavior if its threats are not responded to.

Kharkiv region

Ukrainian troops continue their counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region. After a quick operation, when the towns of Balaklia, Izyum, Vovchansk and Kupyansk were liberated, the Ukrainian Defense Forces encountered a natural obstacle — the Oskil River. At that time, the occupiers controlled a very small part of Kharkiv region — only the left bank of the river. They tried to build a defense along Oskil, but without success. Ukrainian troops pulled up communications, logistics, control points and artillery and began to advance further across the river. The Defense Forces of Ukraine have created at least three bridgeheads on the left bank of the Oskil.

The first is near the village of Dvorichna, north of Kupyansk. The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine mentions the shelling of settlements on the left bank of the Oskil river near Dvorichna. So, the fighting is going on there.

The second bridgehead is in the city of Kupyansk, which Oskil divides into two parts. The Ukrainian military has already publicly confirmed the liberation of the left-bank part of Kupyansk and settlements located south of the city, in particular the village and the large railway junction Kupyansk-Vuzlovy.

The third bridgehead is probably the largest one. It was created at the beginning of September — after the retreat of the Russians at the place where the Oskil flows into the Siverskyi Donets. The administrative border of the Donetsk and Kharkiv regions runs there, so the Ukrainian military is vacating settlements in both regions at once. The Defense Forces of Ukraine have significantly advanced here over the past 10 days. They went north along Oskil, liberated the villages of Rubtsi and Lozove, as well as the village of Pisky-Radkivski and almost reached the Borova settlement. Along the administrative border of Kharkiv region and Donetsk region, the Ukrainian army advanced to the east. Now the fighting continues near settlements located on the border of Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

On September 20 and 22, the Russians launched rocket attacks on the Pechenihy dam on the Siverskyi Donets, which is located east of Kharkiv. Presumably, this is how the occupiers tried to raise the water level in the river, because it is through it that the Ukrainian military is now advancing on the city of Lyman in the Donetsk region. High water levels could make crossing the Siverskyi Donets difficult, especially for heavy equipment.



In the north of Donetsk region, Ukrainian troops continue their counteroffensive around Lyman. Attempts to take the city from several sides were unsuccessful, so the Ukrainian Defense Forces changed tactics and began to bypass it from the north as well. The goal is to completely cut off supplies to the Russian military in Lyman.

The Ukrainian army has almost achieved this. Over the past 10 days, the Ukrainian Defense Forces broke through the Russian defenses northwest of the Lyman and entered the operational space. They liberated several villages and are coming to the city from the north to cut the road between the towns of Lyman and Svatove. Currently, Russians can come to Lyman from Kreminna and Svatove, although both roads are already shot through by the Ukrainian army. These paths connect in the village of Zarichne, which is a little more than 10 kilometers from the nearest Ukrainian positions. If Zarichne is taken, Lyman will be completely surrounded. Therefore, in the near future we should expect that the Russians will flee from the city or fall into the "cauldron". The Ukrainian army has already confirmed that Lyman is under operational encirclement, that is, all roads from the city are either controlled or shot through by the Defense Forces of Ukraine.

If the Ukrainian army takes Lyman, it will play an important role in launching a large-scale counteroffensive on the Luhansk region. From all three bridgeheads on the left bank of the Oskil River, the Defense Forces of Ukraine can advance on Svatove. Lyman also creates the prerequisites for an offensive on Kreminna, which is also in Luhansk region, and then on to Rubizhne, Sievierodonetsk, and Lysychansk. In addition, the city has a large railway junction, which will help the Ukrainian army to quickly deliver reinforcements, equipment and ammunition. The liberation of Lyman will also remove the threat of a Russian attack on Slovyansk, and the invaders will be able to attack this city only with long-range weapons.

South-east of the town of Siversk, the Ukrainian military most likely liberated the village of Spirne. Pro-Russian Telegram channels published videos of shelling of the positions of the Ukrainian Defense Forces, which were located on the eastern outskirts of the village. This means that the settlement is now under Ukrainian control. In general, the Russians have not tried to advance on Siversk for more than a month.

The city of Bakhmut and surrounding settlements remain one of the hottest areas of the front. Only mercenaries from Wagner operate here. By the way, Russian businessman and "Putinʼs cook" Evgeny Prigozhyn publicly admitted for the first time on September 26 that he really created this private military company in 2014 and manages it. The media constantly talked about this, the West imposed sanctions on him because of managing of the “wagnerians”, but Prigozhyn himself constantly denied it and even filed lawsuits in court against the Russian media, which called him the owner of the company.

The area around Bakhmut is the only place where the Russians make any progress when they advance. Although they are too small for the general front — the invaders capture approximately one village in 10 days. The Russians donʼt stop trying to physically cut the road between Bakhmut and the former checkpoint Mayorsk, so they are trying to attack the villages of Odradivka and Mykolaivka, and through them go to Kurdyumivka, where the railway line to Mayorsk runs. But the Ukrainian Armed Forces repulse all their attacks. There are no advances closer to Bakhmut in the area of the village of Zaitseve, as well as in the town of Soledar. Fighting continues on the eastern outskirts of Bakhmut. The Russians destroyed the last bridge over the Bakhmutka River, and this cut off the smaller eastern part of the city from the rest. Now it will be harder for Ukrainian troops to defend the city — it will be more difficult to transfer equipment and reinforcements here.

The Russians are trying to advance along all the western outskirts of Donetsk — from Avdiivka to the village of Novomykhailivka, but they havenʼt advanced in the last 10 days. The situation is similar around the town of Vugledar and the village of Velyka Novosilka — the Russians failed to attack, there are no advances.



Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions

The situation on the front line in the Zaporizhzhia region is unchanged, and has been like this since the spring. The Russians and the Defense Forces of Ukraine continue positional battles and shell each other with artillery, but donʼt attempt to advance.

The IAEA has started negotiations to create a safety zone around the Zaporizhzhia NPP. Ukraine has already agreed to this and, together with the agency, wants to expand the mission staff at the station. However, it is possible to create a demilitarized zone around the ZNPP only if Russia agrees to it. And after the "referendums", when the Kremlin officially recognizes the occupied territories of Ukraine as part of the Russian Federation, the Russians will probably either demand money from Ukraine for the supply of electricity from the ZNPP, or completely disconnect it from the Ukrainian energy system.

Recently, the tempo of the Ukrainian counteroffensive has somewhat decreased in the Kherson region. This is also confirmed by the summary of the Operational Command South: the number of liquidated occupiers and their equipment is also decreasing. However, sometimes Russian losses are quite significant. This happens after reports of successful strikes by the Ukrainian army on places where Russian equipment is concentrated, and especially when the occupiers are crossing the Dnipro or preparing for this.

Ukrainian troops keep all crossings across the Dniprщ under fire control and prevent the Russians from quickly and massively supplying their troops on the right bank. For this, the Defense Forces of Ukraine are hitting the bridges and crossings that the occupiers are trying to build on the river.



Arms supplies

Over the past 10 days, there have been almost no announcements about the supply of new equipment and weapons to Ukraine, at least they werenʼt publicly announced. Traditionally, at least one aid package was announced by the United States, this time for $1.1 billion. It will include 18 HIMARS rocket launcher systems, hundreds of military vehicles, dozens of military trucks and tractors, as well as anti-drone systems. However, this funding will go to the long-term support of Ukraine: the Ukrainian military will receive assistance in 1-2 years.

This week there was a misunderstanding with the supply of Western NASAMS air defense systems to Ukraine. Initially, President Volodymyr Zelensky in an interview with the CBS TV channel stated that the Ukrainian army had already received them. However, the Presidentʼs Office later noted that Ukraine does not yet have these systems — they should arrive in the next few months.

The Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine gave more details about the transfer of these air defense systems. The Ukrainian army will receive two NASAMS batteries, each of which provides for up to eight launchers. One NASAMS battery will be able to protect a fairly large area, or even an entire region. In particular, such a battery can be sufficient for the defense of a city like Kyiv. In addition to the installations themselves, the necessary radars, control complexes and staff vehicles will be transferred to Ukraine.

Germany has also increased the number of IRIS-T systems that will be transferred to Ukraine. Already at the beginning of September, the German ambassador to Ukraine, Anka Feldhusen, confirmed that the Ukrainian army will receive four such systems instead of one. Now it has been officially listed on the website of the German government. Ukraine should receive the first two systems by the end of the year.

Translated from Ukrainian by Anton Semyzhenko.

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Ukrainian military examines an abandoned Russian T-90A tank in the village of Kyrylivka, Kharkiv region, on September 30, 2022.