May 10, 2024

Institute for the Study of War:  Russian forces begin offensive in northern Kharkiv, register tactically significant advances 

Institute for the Study of War

Russian forces began an offensive operation along the Russian-Ukrainian border in northern Kharkiv Oblast on the morning of May 10 and made tactically significant gains. Russian forces are likely conducting the initial phase of an offensive operation north of Kharkiv City that has limited operational objectives but is meant to achieve the strategic effect of drawing Ukrainian manpower and materiel from other critical sectors of the front in eastern Ukraine. Russian forces have so far launched two limited efforts in the area, one north of Kharkiv City in the direction of Lyptsi and one northeast of Kharkiv City near Vovchansk. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense (MoD) reported that Russian armored assault groups of an unspecified size attempted to break through Ukrainian defenses near Vovchansk early in the morning and that fighting continued in the area after Ukrainian forces repelled the Russian assaults. Russian and Ukrainian sources stated that Russian forces also began infantry-heavy assaults between Strilecha (north of Lyptsi) and Zelene (northeast of Lyptsi) on the night of May 9 to 10. Russian and Ukrainian sources reported that Russian forces significantly intensified airstrikes, shelling, and MLRS strikes against Ukrainian positions, logistics, and infrastructure ahead of and during Russian offensive operations in these areas.

Ukrainian journalist Yuriy Butusov and Ukrainian outlet Ukrainska Pravda reported that Russian forces seized Strilecha, Krasne, Pylna, and Borisivka (all north to northeast of Lyptsi), and Butusov reported that Russian forces have established a foothold in the area five kilometers deep and 10 kilometers wide. Geolocated footage confirms that Russian forces have seized Pylna and advanced south of the settlement, and Russian sources have also widely claimed that Russian forces seized Strilecha, Krasne, and Borisivka. NASA Fire Information for Resource Management (FIRMS) data from May 10 indicates that heavy fighting has likely occurred in and near these four settlements. ISW assesses with high confidence, based on credible Ukrainian reporting and the preponderance of evidence, that Russian forces have seized Strilecha, Krasne, and Borisivka, but has yet to observe geolocated confirmation of this assessment. Russian milbloggers also claimed that Russian forces seized Zelene, Ohirtseve, and Hatyshche (both west of Vovchansk), although ISW has not observed confirmation of these claims. Reuters reported that a senior Ukrainian military source stated that Russian forces advanced at least one kilometer in depth near Vovchansk. ISW assesses that Russian forces have advanced in the direction of Vovchansk but has not observed enough evidence to assess an approximate frontline trace in the immediate area. Ukrainian sources reported that fighting continued near Krasne, Morokhovets (northeast of Lyptsi), Oliinykove (northeast of Lyptsi), and Hatyshche later in the afternoon.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces began an offensive operation along the Russian-Ukrainian border in northern Kharkiv Oblast on the morning of May 10 and made tactically significant gains. Russian forces are likely conducting the initial phase of an offensive operation north of Kharkiv City that has limited operational objectives but is meant to achieve the strategic effect of drawing Ukrainian manpower and materiel from other critical sectors of the front in eastern Ukraine.
  • Russian forces will likely leverage their tactical foothold in northern Kharkiv Oblast in the coming days to intensify offensive operations and pursue the initial phase of an offensive effort likely intended to push back Ukrainian forces from the border with Belgorod Oblast and advance to within tube artillery range of Kharkiv City.
  • The limited efforts that Russian forces are currently conducting do not suggest that Russian forces are immediately pursuing a large-scale sweeping offensive operation to envelop, encircle, and seize Kharkiv City, however.
  • Russian offensive operations along the Kharkiv international border likely have the strategic objective of drawing and fixing Ukrainian forces to this axis to enable Russian advances in other areas of eastern Ukraine.
  • ISW continues to assess that Russian forces will likely struggle to seize Kharkiv City should they aim to do so.
  • Russian forces likely decided to launch offensive operations along the international border area to take the best advantage of the relatively brief time left before Western aid arrives at the Ukrainian frontline at scale.
  • Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Lieutenant General Oleksandr Pavlyuk stated that the war in Ukraine will enter a critical phase in the next two months and commented on recent Russian advances around Chasiv Yar and Avdiivka.
  • US President Joe Biden approved up to $400 million worth of military assistance for Ukraine as part of the Presidential Drawdown Authority Fund on May 10.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted a drone strike on the night of May 9 to 10 against an oil refinery in Kaluga Oblast that Ukrainian forces previously struck in March 2024.
  • Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin is retaining his position in the Russian government for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s new term of office, and there have been speculations but no confirmations of changes to Putin’s cabinet.
  • US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy John Plumb stated that US defense officials partnered with SpaceX to stop the Russian military’s unauthorized use of Starlink internet terminals in frontline areas of Ukraine.
  • Russian forces recently marginally advanced near Donetsk City and in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area.
  • Russian and Belarusian authorities continue to illegally deport Ukrainian citizens, including children, to Russia and Belarus.

For full report: https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-may-10-2024 

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