Ukraine and Russia are fighting for the initiative again. The winner will be the one who regroups the troops faster. Our analysis of the situation at the front on the 270th day of the full-scale invasion — with maps

Oleksiy Yarmolenko
Tetyana Lohvynenko
Ukraine and Russia are fighting for the initiative again. The winner will be the one who regroups the troops faster. Our analysis of the situation at the front on the 270th day of the full-scale invasion — with maps

Ukrainian troops fire at Russian positions from the "Grad" rocket salvo system in Donbas, November 17, 2022.

The Russian army retreated from the right bank of the Kherson region and is now shifting its troops to other directions. Ukraine has also freed a significant part of its forces and is also regrouping. At the same time, the Russians have increased the intensity of their offensive in Donbas, they attack Ukrainian positions about a hundred times a day. The further course of the war will depend on who will redeploy his troops and prepare new attacks first.

After the Russian army retreated from the right bank of the Kherson region, and the Ukrainian Armed Forces liberated Kherson, statements about the need for negotiations between Ukraine and Russia sounded even louder in the public space. Russian authorities donʼt hide this and constantly declare that they are ready for the talks without preconditions.

Gradually, Western countries began to join the Russian Federation. The American media The Wall Street Journal reported that Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser to the US president, during a visit to Kyiv, recommended Ukraine to review its goals in the war and think about realistic demands to Russia. Washington made it clear that Kyiv should at least appear open the end of the war through negotiations. Sullivan also advised thinking about more realistic priorities for negotiations with the Russian Federation, in particular, to revise the stated goal of liberating Crimea.

Indeed, recently the Ukrainian authorities have somewhat softened their rhetoric regarding the complete impossibility of negotiations with Russia. The officials decided to demonstrate that the country is ready to end the war peacefully, but only under certain conditions. During his speech at the G20 summit, President Volodymyr Zelensky presented the Ukrainian plan, which consists of 10 steps. It provides for the establishment of nuclear, food, environmental and energy security, the liberation of all prisoners, the withdrawal of Russian troops and the restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, the punishment of war criminals, compensation for damages, and the provision of guarantees that a new war wonʼt occur.

Russia rejected the formula. But Ukraine will now build its negotiating position precisely on this plan and call on the West to force the Russian Federation to take all the steps.

On November 15, the Russians launched the most massive missile attack on Ukraine. They fired 96 rockets. Of them, 75 were shot down by the Ukrainian Air Defense Forces. The main targets again became the objects of the energy infrastructure, due to which emergency power outages began throughout Ukraine. A day later, the Russians struck another massive blow. Ukraine shot down six missiles out of about 18. But this time the occupiers hit new targets — the gas production infrastructure. Obviously, now Russia wants to create problems for Ukraine not only with electricity, but also with heating.

During the massive strike on November 15, one of the rockets exploded on the territory of Poland, in the village of Przewodów. Two people died. The Ukrainian authorities immediately began to publicly say that it was a Russian missile. But the West was more cautious. Subsequently, it was found out: it was a missile from the S-300 anti-aircraft complex that exploded. Most likely, it was launched from the Ukrainian system to shoot down the Russian one, but did not hit. Anti-aircraft missiles are supposed to self-destruct in the event of a miss, but Ukraine uses old Soviet stocks and systems, so such failures are possible.

The investigation was conducted by Poland and the USA. They do not blame Ukraine for this incident. There they emphasize that only Russia is to blame, because it launched a missile attack on Ukraine, and Ukrainian forces have every right to defend their skies.

The explosion on the territory of Poland once again demonstrated to the West how critical it is for Ukraine now to obtain a large number of air defense systems, and not only old ones, but also modern, so that such incidents donʼt happen again. Therefore, most likely, Ukraine will now be provided with more different air defense systems. The best option would be to “close the sky” at least over the western regions, or allow Poland to install its air defense systems near the Ukrainian border and shoot down Russian missiles that would fly towards it. So far, such ideas have not even been voiced publicly.

The Kharkiv region

In the Kharkiv region, for the last several weeks the battles are mostly positional. Ukrainian troops are not trying to advance in the northwestern direction towards the Russian border in order to completely liberate the Kharkiv region. They are trying to advance along the highway Kupyansk — Svatove, in order to reach Svatove itself from the northern side or to cut the road between it and the village of Troitske in the Luhansk region. A railway from Russia passes through Troitske. The occupiers use it to supply their troops in the north of the Luhansk region.

Currently, the Ukrainian army is mainly focused on knocking out the Russians from a small area in the west of Kharkiv region, where a number of villages are located close to each other: Kyslivka, Kotlyarivka, Yahidne, Ivanivka, Orlyanske and others. If the operation is successful, it will open the way for the Ukrainian military to the administrative border of the Luhansk region and further to the Svatove area from the north and northeast.



Defense Forces of Ukraine continue to put pressure on the Russians at the border between the towns of Svatove and Kreminna in the Luhansk region. The occupiers are trying to restrain the offensive of the mobilized and constantly throw them to the front line. As a result, their losses increase significantly, but the Ukrainian offensive also slows down — the Ukrainian Defense Forces canʼt attack further until the territory is completely cleared. And the Russians again and again bring new fighters to their positions. They are also trying to attack Ukrainian positions to push the UAF away from the Svatove-Kreminna road, but without success.

On November 16, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense officially confirmed that the village of Makiivka in the west of Luhansk region was liberated. It was fought over for a long time, it belonged to different sides, and because of that it was completely destroyed. The liberated Makiivka allows the Ukrainian military to advance further on the village of Ploshanka: it is located near the Svatove-Kreminna road. The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has already mentioned several times that the Russians are shelling the Ploshchanka. There is also a video on social networks of the Russians firing at a Ukrainian tank just one kilometer west of the village. Therefore, it can be said that the fighting continues for the village, because if it is liberated, the Defense Forces of Ukraine will go to the Svatove-Kreminna road and cut it. Logistics will become much more difficult for the Russians, and it will also become difficult to move along this border.

On the right (southern) bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, on the administrative border of the Luhansk region and Donetsk region, fighting continues in the area of the village of Bilohorivka and the villages of Verkhnyokamyanka and Spirne. In recent days, the Russians have stepped up their efforts here and even once again reported that they seem to have captured Bilohorivka. But, as always, without any confirmation. The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reports almost every day that the occupiers are trying to attack these settlements, but the attempts are successfully repulsed by the Ukrainian Defense Forces.

After the Russians retreated from Kherson, they became much more active in Donbas. Probably, the occupiers want to stop the flow of negative news about the right bank of the Kherson region. President Volodymyr Zelensky also confirms that the occupiers in Donetsk region attack Ukrainian positions about a hundred times every day.

The Russians are trying to advance the most in the Bakhmut and Donetsk directions. In the last 10 days, they have made some minor progress there, but have made no serious advances.

For several months now, the situation around the city of Bakhmut has been extremely difficult. The Russians are trying to take it in a semi-encirclement, but in a week they usually advance just by several dozens of meters. To the northeast of the city, in the area of the town of Soledar, the front line almost doesnʼt change, although the Russians try every day to seize Ukrainian positions along the Bakhmut-Lysychansk road.

Fierce fighting is also ongoing to the east and south of Bakhmut. The Russians are trying to advance on the eastern outskirts of the city, and the village of Ivangrad and the village of Opytne remain between them and Bakhmut in the south. Most likely, the Russians were able to enter Ivangrad in the last 10 days. This is confirmed by a video in which a Ukrainian tank leaves Bakhmut for Opytne and fires from there in the direction of Ivangrad. It isnʼt known whether the occupiers were able to gain a foothold in Ivangrad itself, and Opytne is still controlled by Ukrainian troops.

In the Horlivka area, the occupiers most likely seized the territories around the former checkpoint "Mayorsk". They stated this, but in confirmation they posted only a video from the neighborhood of Mayorsk, which is closest to Horlivka. However, to advance further towards Toretsk, they will have to cross railway tracks and a water channel. Itʼs challenging, therefore, most likely, they will choose another direction of attack — to the north, towards Bakhmut, to the villages of Ozaryanivka and Kurdyumivka. The Russians can simultaneously attack them from the east and from the south.

In the western suburbs of Donetsk, the occupiers were also able to advance somewhat in the last 10 days and capture part of the Ukrainian positions. After the Russians captured the village of Pisky, they moved north, knocked out the Ukrainian military from positions immediately behind the Donetsk airport, and advanced further towards the villages of Vodyane and Opytne. Now the occupiers are publishing a video from Opytne itself, so the village is occupied. They also established themselves at least in the southeastern part of the village of Vodyane. Both of these settlements deter the Russians from attacking the city of Avdiivka. If they are captured, the occupiers will be able to attack the city from another side — from the southwest. Thus, they will press on Avdiivka from the southwest, south, east, as well as from the northeast, and it will be much more difficult for the Ukrainian military to defend the city.

To the south of the village of Pisky, the Russians are also gradually advancing towards the village of Nevelske. If the invaders capture it, they will be able to attack the village of Pervomaiske not only from the east, but also from the south. Or they will turn south, towards the city of Krasnohorivka, and try to put pressure on it. All this is done in order to move the Ukrainian army away from Donetsk and create a certain “buffer zone” for the city. But the key to this should be the capture of Avdiivka, which Ukrainian troops have turned into a powerful fortified area with a huge number of defensive positions.

In the town of Maryinka, the front line, most likely, stabilized approximately in the center of the settlement, along the Donetsk bypass road. The Russians are currently advancing more to the north and south of the city.

On the Vuhledar direction, the Russians are now advancing much more slowly, as expected, in the area of the village of Pavlivka. Ukrainian troops completely shoot him from Vuрledar, which is located on a hill. When the occupiers realized that it would not be possible to take and clear the village, they simply publicly reported that they had captured Pavlivka, and even hung their flag on one of the destroyed residential buildings. Later, the video was geolocated — it happened in one of the outermost houses in the southeastern part of the village. The exact situation in Pavlivka is unknown, but the Russians were definitely not able to capture it completely. Probably, reached the southern and eastern or only in the southeastern part of the village. The Ukrainian army continues to eliminate the occupiers in and around Pavlivka, and even reaches the Russian positions outside the village.



The Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions

The front line in the Zaporizhzhia region remains unchanged. Neither Russia nor Ukraine has tried to advance here on a large scale since the spring. But after the Russians retreated from the right bank of the Kherson region, they began to pay more attention to the Zaporizhzhia direction. The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reports that the occupiers are actively building defense lines in Zaporizhzhia, in particular around Melitopol. This city is the main one for controlling the south of Ukraine. If the Ukrainian military frees him, they will cut the Russian group in two and force the occupiers to withdraw their troops from the left bank of the Dnipro River at least to Crimea.

In the Kherson region, Ukrainian troops finally liberated the right bank of the region and Kherson itself. In total, the Defense Forces of Ukraine liberated 198 settlements and reached the border of the Dnipro River. This will allow the Ukrainian army to leave only a small part of the troops in this direction, and transfer the remaining forces to other directions to either advance or repel Russian attacks.

It is obvious that the Ukrainian troops will not force the Dnipro River: then they will find themselves in the same situation as the Russians — because of the blown-up bridges, it will be extremely difficult to support the groups on the other side of the river. But when the Ukrainian Defense Forces reached Dnipro, they began systematically shelling Russian positions on the left bank, as well as the main logistical hubs of the occupiers. Russian bases in Chaplynka, Skadovsk, and other settlements came under attack. With the help of HIMARS systems, Ukrainian troops reach even the Crimean Isthmus. Because of this, it is much more difficult for the Russians to deliver weapons and ammunition to their troops from the peninsula.

The occupiers are already aware that the positions on the left bank of the Kherson region are also extremely vulnerable for them, and have begun to withdraw from the Dnipro River deep into the region in order to avoid shelling from Ukrainian artillery. They even started building fortifications in the north of Crimea, fully assuming that the Ukrainian military could reach the administrative border with the peninsula.

The situation with the cities of the left bank of the Kherson region, which are located along the left bank of the Dnipro River: Kakhovka, Nova Kakhovka, Oleshky, and Gola Prystan will be interesting now. Ukrainian positions are only a few kilometers from them, so the Ukrainian Defense Forces fire at Russian troops with all the weapons they have. The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces regularly reports on hits on Russian positions and bases along the left bank of the Dnipro River. That is why the occupiers began to leave. In the South Operative Command, it was noted that they are withdrawing troops 15-20 kilometers from the Dnipro River. The population is being evacuated from the cities along the left bank of the river, the occupying administrations are fleeing, and the Russians are looting and taking away valuable equipment from hospitals, schools, communal enterprises, premises of state authorities, etc. All this is very similar to what happened on the right bank of the Kherson region. Itʼs most likely that very soon these cities will find themselves in the so-called gray zone, where there will be neither occupiers nor Ukrainian troops. How they will function is unknown. Itʼs almost impossible to ferry large Ukrainian forces across the Dnipro to gain a foothold and defend the cities, and to fully restore the Ukrainian government and law enforcement agencies there without military protection as well. Therefore, light Ukrainian forces, in particular SSO fighters, will probably arrive on the left bank from time to time, or Ukraine will try to ferry humanitarian aid across the river.

It will be the same on the Kinburn spit, because all roads to it are shot by Ukrainian troops. Most likely, the Russians will have to abandon their positions on the spit and move deep into the Kherson region. But it isnʼt known whether the Ukrainian army will want to establish itself there. The Russians will also be able to fire at Ukrainian positions, and the fighters of the Ukrainian Defense Forces will have problems with providing supplies through the Dnipro.

Currently, both Ukraine and Russia are transferring their troops that fought on the right bank of the Kherson region to other directions. The further course of the war will depend on who will do it faster and strike first. The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has already reported that Russian troops from the Kherson region are going to the Luhansk region. It can be assumed that they are preparing to defend the north of the Luhansk region and in no case let the Ukrainian army pass to Svatove and Kreminna.



Weapons supply

Usually, the US announces at least one military aid package for Ukraine every ten days, but this time there was no such announcement. The White House said that they will inform about this in the near future. They also emphasized that they plan to further strengthen aid to Ukraine. On November 16, US President Joe Biden even asked Congress to allocate another $37 billion for this.

On November 16, the seventh meeting of the coordination group for assistance to Ukraine in the Rammstein format took place. Breakthrough achievements based on its results werenʼt publicly announced, almost all countries only confirmed their commitments regarding the supply of weapons that had been announced earlier, especially regarding air defense systems.

The European Union has officially approved the start of a special training mission for the Ukrainian military. During it, they want to train up to 50,000 soldiers. The training of the Ukrainian army in the West is important for victory, because the fighters are trained according to NATO standards and rules, and also study Western weapons and equipment. They are also trained by Western instructors at their own training grounds. This relieves the Ukrainian army and allows you not to drag away experienced officers from the front to train new soldiers in the rear.

CNN reported that the United States is considering the possibility of transferring large Gray Eagle drones to Ukraine, but in a special modification. The Americans want to extract extremely sensitive technologies from them so that they donʼt fall into the hands of the Russians. The Ukrainian side has been asking the US for them for a long time. These drones can be equipped with air-to-ground Hellfire missiles with a range of up to 11 km. One drone can carry four missiles and fly at an altitude of more than 8 km for almost 30 hours. Gray Eagles have performed very well in conflicts in the Middle East, but in the conditions of a full-scale war between two regular armies in an urbanized area and a very large number of air defenses, it isnʼt known whether the Ukrainian army will be able to realize the full potential of these drones.

On November 16, Sweden announced its largest package of military aid to Ukraine. Its total amount will be $287 million, it will include air defense systems and ammunition. What exactly is there, Sweden doesnʼt say yet.

Itʼs becoming obvious that the West is now concentrating on transferring to Ukraine a large number of different air defense systems to protect against Russian missile strikes. The territory of our country is large. Therefore, it is extremely important for the army to obtain as much of this equipment as possible in order to saturate the entire area of Ukraine with air defense, as well as to protect all critical facilities, including energy infrastructure.

Translated from Ukrainian by Anton Semyzhenko.

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Ukrainian soldier fires from an anti-aircraft gun at the Russian air targets.