May 11, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Russia captures more territory near Kharkiv in what appears to be a limited operation

Institute for the Study of War

Russian forces are conducting relatively limited offensive operations along the Russian-Ukrainian border in northern Kharkiv Oblast and continued to make tactically significant gains in likely less defended areas. The reported sizes of the Russian elements committed to these limited operations and of the Russian force grouping deployed along the border in northeastern Ukraine indicate that Russian forces are not pursuing a large-scale operation to envelop, encircle, or seize Kharkiv City at this time. Ukrainska Pravda reported that Russian forces resumed offensive operations north of Lyptsi (north of Kharkiv City) on the morning of May 11 and focused on Hlyboke (immediately north of Lyptsi), where Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces advanced to the outskirts of the settlement and later seized and cleared the settlement. NASA Fire Information for Resource Management (FIRMS) data captured on May 10 indicates that there has likely been heavy fighting near Hlyboke, and ISW assesses that Russian forces have advanced up to the outskirts of the settlement. Geolocated footage published on May 11 indicates that Russian forces have seized Morokhovets and Oliinykove (both northeast of Lypsti), and Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces seized these settlements. Ukrainian officials reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults west of Vovchansk (northeast of Kharkiv City) near Ohirtseve and Hatyshche, two settlements that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Russian sources claimed that Russian forces seized as of May 11. ISW assesses that Russian forces have advanced at least to the outskirts of Ohirtseve and Hatyshche. The Russian MoD claimed that Russian forces also seized Strilecha, Pylna, and Borsivika (north to northwest of Lypsti), claims that ISW assesses to be accurate, as well as Pletenivka (north of Vovchansk). Russian sources also claimed that Russian forces seized Hoptivka and Kudiivka (both northwest of Lyptsi and southeast of Kozacha Lopan). Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces advanced further towards Lukyantsi (northeast of Lyptsi), to the northern outskirts of Neskuchne (northeast of Lyptsi), and to the western outskirts of Staritsa and Izbytske (west of Vovchansk and east of Lyptsi). Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces advanced from Hatyshche to the northwestern outskirts of Vovchansk, south from Pletenivka, and towards Tykhe (on Vovchansk’s northeastern outskirts). Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces seized Tykhe and are currently trying to advance east of the settlement into Vovchansk. ISW has not observed evidence that would support an assessment that these Russian claims correspond with Russian advances at this time.

Ukrainian Khortytsia Group of Forces Spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Nazar Voloshyn stated that Russian forces are trying to advance in areas that were already contested “grey zones,” suggesting that Ukrainian forces did not maintain enduring positions in many of the small border settlements that Russian forces have seized or have reportedly seized. It is unlikely that Ukrainian forces would have established serious strongholds and fortifications along a contested grey zone or enduring positions in small border settlements that Russian forces have long subjected to routine indirect fire. Russian forces will likely face more intense resistance when trying to advance near settlements further south of the border and into larger border settlements like Lyptsi and Vovchansk. The proximity of Kharkiv City to the border magnifies the significance of limited Russian tactical gains, however, as Russian forces do not have to advance much further to begin threatening Kharkiv City with routine shelling.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces are conducting relatively limited offensive operations along the Russian-Ukrainian border in northern Kharkiv Oblast and continued to make tactically significant gains in likely less defended areas. The reported sizes of the Russian elements committed to these limited operations and of the Russian force grouping deployed along the border in northeastern Ukraine indicate that Russian forces are not pursuing a large-scale operation to envelop, encircle, or seize Kharkiv City at this time.

  • Russian forces reportedly launched offensive operations along the Russian-Ukrainian border in northern Kharkiv Oblast before they had completed bringing the Northern Grouping of Forces up to its reported planned end strength and have so far only committed a limited amount of combat power to offensive operations in the area.
  • ISW continues to assess that the Russian offensive operations in northern Kharkiv Oblast likely aim to draw Ukrainian forces from other sectors of the front while allowing Russian forces to advance to within tube artillery range of Kharkiv City.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian military command may be evaluating the risks, prospects, and timeline of offensive operations in northern Kharkiv Oblast based on the assumption that Ukraine cannot and will not be able to liberate territory seized by Russian forces. Putin’s and the Russian military command’s calculus about the threat of Ukrainian territorial gains is likely shaping Russia’s overall operational approach to seizing territory in Ukraine.
  • The limited Russian offensive operations in northern Kharkiv Oblast suggest that the resumption of US security assistance has not changed Putin’s calculus or that he launched the Kharkiv effort without reassessing the operation’s fundamental assumptions about Ukrainian capabilities in light of the resumption of aid.
  • The directions of Russian offensive operations in the international border area suggest that Russia may be attempting to create a “buffer zone” to protect Belgorod City, as Russian and Ukrainian officials have recently stated.
  • Russian forces appear to be attempting to quickly isolate the battlespace east of the Siverskyi Donets River and seize Vovchansk, a direction of advance that Russian forces may believe could threaten the Ukrainian grouping defending in the Kupyansk direction.
  • Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Head Denis Pushilin reiterated a series of Kremlin narratives intended to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and attempted to flatter Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian military during an interview in honor of the 10th anniversary of the DNR’s founding, likely in an attempt to curry favor in the Kremlin.
  • Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted successful drone strikes against a Russian oil refinery in Volgograd Oblast on the night of May 10 to 11.
  • Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin submitted proposals on the composition of the new Russian government to the State Duma on May 11.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances in northern Kharkiv Oblast; near Svatove, Chasiv Yar, Avdiivka, and Donetsk City; in western Zaporizhia Oblast; and in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) continues to highlight frontline Russian units fighting in Ukraine.

For full report:  https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-may-11-2024 

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