Speed Reads

'tactical surprise'

Ukraine surprisingly expanded its southern counteroffensive to northern Kharkiv region

A week into Ukraine's push to retake southern Kherson region from Russian control, Ukrainian forces surprised Russia by conducting "an opportunistic yet highly effective counteroffensive" in northern Kharkiv, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported late Wednesday. "Ukrainian forces likely used tactical surprise" to advance at least 12 miles into Russian-held territory in Kharkiv, recapturing about 155 square miles of ground.

"Rumors have swirled for days about a possible breakthrough in the eastern Kharkiv region, but with no word from Ukrainian officials," BBC News reports. Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky broke the silence Wednesday evening, celebrating "good news from Kharkiv region" but cautioning it is "not the time to name these or that settlements to which the Ukrainian flag is returning."

The "unexpected Ukrainian military offensive" east and southeast of Kharkiv city has already encircled the Russian-held city of Balakliya, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing Ukrainian officials and pro-Russia military bloggers, and Ukrainian forces are pushing toward Kupyansk, "a road hub for Russian supplies heading south from the border," and Izium, a Russian "staging point for its own offensive in eastern Ukraine."

"Ukraine spoke openly of its intention to launch a southern offensive, prompting Russia to reinforce its units in the south with thousands of troops from the east," the Journal notes. "That appears to have opened opportunities for Ukrainian forces in the east to advance." 

The "panicked and despondent" Russian military bloggers are warning Ukraine's Kherson offensive may be "a feint for renewed operations in Kharkiv Oblast," ISW reports. But it's more likely Ukrainian forces just "took prudent advantage of a reallocation of Russian troops, equipment, and overall operational focus to launch localized counteroffensives toward critical points in Kharkiv." 

Meanwhile, "Ukraine also claimed fresh success in the south on Wednesday, seizing a village and striking Russian military facilities" and "ammunition depots," the Journal reports. "Ukrainian brigades continue to conduct offensive operations" in Kherson, Britain's Ministry of Defense affirmed early Thursday, and "Ukraine's systematic precision targeting of vulnerable crossing points" of the Dnipro River is impeding Russia's ability to resupply its forces with reinforcements and munitions. 

"Russia still holds an advantage in the quantity of artillery and shells," and it is more costly for armies to attack than defend, the Journal reports. But Ukraine's "dual offensives in eastern and southern Ukraine show how the country's military is increasingly forcing Russia to react to its moves," not direct the war.