Another good day on the Kharkiv front.
For this phase of the offensive, Svatove is the prize. Ukraine is putting pressure on both the north and southern approaches to the town, which is why Russia is throwing everything it can at both Lyman and the Ukrainian bridgehead east of Kupiansk. As Russian war blogger Rybar put in, “in the event that the Armed Forces of Ukraine reach Svatovo, the entire Lyman group of allied forces [Russian and Donbas proxy armies] will be in an operational encirclement. With a simultaneous strike from the bridgehead near Kupyansk, the entire defense along the border of the LPR could collapse.” That looks like this:
Ridkodub is on one of the two highways supplying Lyman, while the other road, just to the east, is within range of Ukrainian artillery. But Svatove is the real prize, the key logistical hub for this corner of the front. Russia transports supplies to Starobilsk and/or Bilohurakyne by rail, then trucks them over to Svatove. If Ukraine can take the town, Russia would need to supply Lyman and its environs across the Krasna river (which passes north-south through Svatove and Kreminna). If any bridges are still left standing at this time, HIMARS/MLRS would take care of that quick. Rybar is right: cut off Svatove, and Russian positions to the west of the Krasna collapse and Ukraine walks away with several hundred more trophy armored vehicles.
(Crossing the Krasna, particularly engorged by fall rains, would present serious problems for the continued Ukrainian advance, but they’ll cross that bridge—literally and figuratively—when they get there.)
Another pro-Russian blogger, in describing the desperate state of the Russian defense in the area, essentially says that Russia is throwing its reserves into a meat grinder trying to slow the Ukrainian advance.
That may be why Russia is rushing recently mobilized forces to Ukraine with just a day’s worth of training. They are literally meant to be human speed bumps.
Interestingly, pro-Russian Telegram has been declaring for about a week now that Lyman is about to fall. Meanwhile, the invaders still hold on under incredibly difficult conditions. It’s one thing for Ukrainian defender to fight to the last—this is their land. Why are Russians still sacrificing themselves?
Lyman will fall in the next couple of days, but that stiff resistance is troubling. This doesn’t look like a Russian side on the verge of utter collapse. These Russians aren’t quitting just yet—whether here, or down in Kherson, where we seem to be back to a bloody artillery battle over open fields.
South of the Second Battle of Lyman, Russia continues their bizarre effort to capture Bakhmut.
As noted repeatedly, there’s nothing particularly strategic about Bakhmut. It’s just one step closer to the actual prizes of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. But that dream is long dead with the collapse of the Izyum advance to Slovyansk’s north. There’s no encirclement or pincer movement in the cards. Bakhmut is pushing forward for the sake of pushing forward, at least pretending to make progress.
Ukrainian General Staff have reported in the past few days that they’ve repulsed all attacks on this approach, mostly Wagner mercenaries bolstered by prison cannon fodder. Yet there have been persistent rumors that Ukraine might be retreating to positions behind the Bakhmutka river running through town.
Retreating behind the Bakhmutka might not be bad military strategy. How would Wagner cross it? They wouldn’t. It would likely save Ukrainian lives at the expense of urban-industrial terrain on the town’s eastern edge. We also know how much Ukraine loves defending industrial zones, oftentimes to its (likely) detriment. On the other hand, Russian artillery has done this to the zone (geolocated here):
There’s clearly nothing much left to defend, so yes, blowing bridges would be the final step toward any such repositioning.
Pro-Russian sources claim this was the last standing bridge, out of seven or so I counted on a map with a cursory glance. I don’t know if they’re really all down, but there’d be no other reason for Ukraine to blow the bridge. Ukrainian military expert Oleg Zhdanov suggests there is truth to the rumors:
Again, it makes military sense to set up defenses across a river Wagner will struggle to cross as autumn rains swells its size. So if a Ukrainian retreat to new defensive positions on the western side of the Bakhmutka river is indeed, what’s happening here, Russian fanboys will cheer Wagner’s advances. Just don’t ask them to explain why this matters.
If true (it is a Russian source after all), this would mean Lyman’s supply lines to the east would also be cut—a full encirclement.
Same information as the map above, but the color scheme makes it more obvious the trouble Russian forces in Lyman face:
Remember, that single supply line left is within easy range of Ukrainian artillery and mortar fire. And Ukraine doesn’t need to close the pincer—the Kransa river effectively manages that.
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