June 19, 2024

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ISW on Russia's failed offensive in the Kharkov region

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War believe that the premature start of the offensive in the north of the Kharkov region was a failure for the Russian Federation, according to yesterday’s ISW report dated May 25.

According to the data analyzed, analysts note that Russian troops began their offensive operation in the north of the Kharkov region with limited forces and have not yet deployed significant reserves there, which has led to a slowdown in the pace of Russian advances and offensive operations:

“This slowdown likely provides Ukrainian forces with tactical opportunities for counterattacks, although Ukrainian forces are not yet conducting a limited counteroffensive operation that aims to completely dislodge Russian forces from the northern Kharkiv region.”

The fragmentation of Russian units that are currently operating in the north of the Kharkov region and the obvious indecisiveness of the Russian military to involve existing reserves in combat operations indicates that Russian troops are likely trying to bring the size of the Northern group to the planned final size before intensifying offensive operations in the north Kharkov region.

At the start of offensive operations on May 10, the Northern Group of Forces had about 35,000 troops in the border area, while Ukrainian sources indicated that the Russian military intended to concentrate between 50,000 and 70,000 troops in the area. Experts suggest that Russian troops may have launched an offensive in the northern Kharkov region ahead of schedule, using insufficient numbers of personnel, hoping to gain a foothold before the arrival of US military aid makes the task even more difficult.

Therefore, it is indicated in ISW reviewIt is likely that the premature start of Russian offensive operations undermined Russia's success in the north of the Kharkov region. Russian forces reportedly managed to surprise Ukrainian forces on May 10 and achieved tactically significant gains in areas that Ukrainian officials reported were less defended.

The SBI announced that it has launched an investigation into the inadequate preparation of Ukrainian defense in the area and the abandonment of Ukrainian positions in the Liptsevsky and Volchansky directions, as reported in ship register. The SRT noted that this allowed Russian troops to advance toward the second line of Ukrainian defenses in the area, although it appears that limited human resources prevented Russian forces from achieving deeper penetration. While it is possible that Russian military commanders believed that concentrating a large force would alert Ukrainian forces and deny them the ability to achieve operational surprise, Russia's decision not to immediately commit significant reserves likely prevented Russian forces from achieving rapid gains and deeper penetration. The report states:

“Ukrainian forces were entrenched in defensive positions in the area, and Russian forces were likely using their tactical opportunity to make relatively quick gains against easily held positions in the area.”

Key ISW findings for May 25:

  1. Ukrainian and Russian sources said Ukrainian forces were increasingly seizing the tactical initiative in the north of the Kharkiv region and characterized Russian operations in the area as defensive, although Russian forces were likely trying to bring the size of the Northern Group of Forces closer to the planned end before possibly intensify offensive operations in the area.
  2. The premature launch of Russian offensive operations appears to have undermined Russian success in the northern Kharkov region.
  3. Russian troops are launching devastating attacks on Kharkov, likely as part of efforts to depopulate the city and demoralize Ukrainians.
  4. Russian electronic warfare capabilities have reportedly impacted the effectiveness of selected Western weapons systems in Ukraine in 2023, as Ukraine and Russia continue to compete in a technical race between offense and defense.
  5. Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov categorically rejected the legitimacy of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and outlined Russia's maximalist conditions for peace negotiations in a May 25 interview with Newsweek.
  6. Russia is likely helping North Korea develop its defense industrial base in exchange for supplies of North Korean ammunition, and US officials reportedly believe Russia may also supply North Korea with military equipment, weapons or technology.
  7. Russian troops recently made a confirmed advance near Donetsk.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has canceled the annual international Army Games competition for the second year in a row, causing joy among critical Russian bloggers.

Institute for the Study of War (ISW) May 25, 2024.

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