Ukrainian forces penetrated up to 50 kilometers deep into Russian defenses and liberated two dozen villages in the Kharkiv region, General Oleksiy Hromov of the Ukrainian General Staff told reporters on Thursday. An area exceeding 700 square kilometers has thus returned under the control of the Ukrainian government, added the newspaper Ukrainska pravda, which quoted the general’s statement. It turns out that the Ukrainians used NATO tactics for the attack near Kharkiv, in which all types of armed forces attack together. 15 Ukrainian tanks were enough to break through the Russian lines on Tuesday.
“As part of the defensive operation in the Kharkiv direction with the aim of liberating the lost territorial Ukrainian armed forces, since the beginning of the week, in cooperation with the National Guard units and other forces, they have been conducting active combat operations in the designated directions. Overall, our units penetrated to a depth of two to several tens of kilometers in individual directions. They liberated a number of villages. The total area of the territory, which once again controls Ukraine in the Kharkiv and South Buzh directions, represents more than 700 square kilometers,” said the general, who is the deputy chief of the main operational administration of the General Staff.
According to the newspaper, Hromov added that the Ukrainian troops wedged themselves into the enemy’s defenses in the Kharkiv direction to a depth of up to 50 kilometers. More than 20 villages were liberated.
The first information about the Ukrainian strike near Kharkiv is becoming public. A description of the events from the Russian point of view was provided by an account on the Telegram network under the name Romanov Lajt. It says that on Tuesday, September 6, the day of the Ukrainians’ initial attack, Russian army and separatist units were absent “for unknown reasons” from the key city of Balakliya.
A group of 15 Ukrainian tanks struck against the Russians, armed mainly with light weapons. “Two companies of the SOBR (police police) and Rosgvardie (Federal Guard Service of Russia) were left almost alone in the city, with about 15 tanks moving against them,” the channel said in a telegram.
During Tuesday, the Ukrainians occupied eight villages. Meanwhile, the Russians retreated and gave orders to evacuate other villages towards which Ukrainian troops were rushing. The occupying forces could not rely on air force support, as the area was covered by Ukrainian air defenses.
Artillery support did not arrive either – since the Ministry’s units in the area had not cooperated with the army since the beginning of the invasion, they only had their own heavy mortars at their disposal. It follows from the Russian channel on Telegram that the Ukrainian tactics developed by the NATO armies caught the disorganized Russian troops completely by surprise.
“The enemy uses a quick attack tactic: an advanced group of special forces fighters quickly flies into the center of the settlement, dismounts from the transporters, neutralizes everything around. It is followed by the main armored group that holds the settlement,” wrote Romanov Lajt.
Analysts at the US-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) previously estimated that Ukrainian forces had advanced at least 20 kilometers into Russian-held territory in the Kharkiv region in the east of the country over the past day, retaking an area of around 400 square kilometers.
In their latest report on the development of the fighting in Ukraine, ISW analysts also said that the Russian army has started sending reinforcements to the Kharkiv region. So far, Russian troops in the area have probably not been large enough, given that Russia is focused on capturing the rest of the Donetsk region, as well as the south of Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces have been conducting a counteroffensive since late August.
The Ukrainians apparently managed to take advantage of the moment of surprise and the movement of Russian soldiers to the southern axis of the fighting and launch a highly effective counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region northwest of the city of Izjum, ISW said. According to ISW, the degree of surprise is evidenced by the shocked tone of Russian Internet commentators on the war, which at the same time demoralizes the Russian forces.
According to the latest information, Ukrainian forces have surrounded the town of Balakliya for the past two days and are advancing towards Kupyansk, the most important railway junction that Russia uses to supply all its troops in eastern Ukraine, the BBC Russian news agency reported.
Although Russian official sources are silent about this Ukrainian procedure, the RIA Novosti agency reported on Thursday that the administration of Kupyansk installed by Russia has begun the evacuation of women and children. The Russian authorities justified the evacuation by Ukrainian shelling. Even Kyiv does not publish the details of the counteroffensive, but judging by satellite images, Ukrainian forces were in the village of Volochiv Yar, about 50 kilometers from Kupyansk, on Wednesday, CNN wrote on Thursday.
In the past 24 hours, the Ukrainian Air Force has carried out over 30 airstrikes against the strongholds of the Russian army and groups of Russian soldiers, the command of the Ukrainian army said in its regular report. Ukrainian air defense destroyed two planes, two helicopters and five drones in different locations, the Ukrainian General Staff said.
According to the Ukrainian command, Russia has lost about 51,250 soldiers, 2,122 tanks, 4,557 armored vehicles, 1,226 guns, 305 rocket launchers, 159 anti-aircraft weapons, 239 planes and 210 helicopters since the February 24 invasion.
Reports of mutual casualties by both warring parties cannot be independently verified under conditions of ongoing fighting.
In southern Ukraine, Ukrainian forces apparently succeeded in destroying a pontoon bridge in Darjivka. It was built by Russian forces after the Darjiv bridge was seriously damaged, the British Ministry of Defense said in Thursday’s overview of the situation in Ukraine.
The Russian Ministry of Defense then informed that Ukrainian troops lost more than 190 soldiers in the area between the cities of Mykolaiv and Kryvyi Rih in the south of Ukraine. Considerable losses, according to Moscow, prevented the Ukrainian army from carrying out further attacks in the area. Using “high precision strikes”, the Russian air force eliminated 120 Ukrainian soldiers near Slovyansk and Kramatorsk in the east of the country, the Russian ministry also said. Nor can these claims be independently verified.