Ukraine’s forces on Wednesday continued to attack towns controlled by Russia in eastern Ukraine. The two sides have been fighting for control of territories located on the borders of the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where Moscow-backed, pro-Russian separatists declared two independent people’s republics in 2014.
Ukrainian troops have taken control of Bilohorivka, a small town in the Luhansk region, said the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). In response to Ukraine’s successful counteroffensive, which has liberated many cities, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday announced a partial military mobilization following recent setbacks in his war against Ukraine.
Russian troops on the Donbas front have been trying to secure defensive positions against the Ukrainian advance, and are also maintaining ground attacks, particularly in the cities of Donetsk and Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region.
Fighting has also been taking place is the Kherson region, in the south, which has been under Russian control since the first weeks of the offensive.
The Ukrainian army has been trying to extend the counteroffensive it launched over a week ago to towns in Donetsk and Luhansk, two regions in the eastern Donbas where pro-Russian separatists, with support from Moscow, proclaimed independent people’s republics in 2014. Oleksii Arestovych, one of President Volodymir Zelenskiy’s advisers, said in a video on Wednesday that Ukrainian troops were trying to retake the Donetsk town of Lyman, about 175 kilometers south of Kharkiv (which was recaptured 10 days ago).
“An assault on Lyman is going on right now,” Arestovych asserted, adding that troops were also trying to reclaim territory in the neighboring Luhansk, both under Russian control. Several military bloggers following the war reported that Russian forces were defending themselves against Ukrainian attacks in Lyman, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
The successful counteroffensive launched in the northeast of the country in the last week has allowed the Ukrainian army to recapture about 8,500 square kilometers since September 6, according to Kyiv. Troops are still working to consolidate their control over the areas recaptured in the last days in the northeastern province of Kharkiv, according to a UK intelligence report from Thursday.
The ISW considers that the recapture of Izyum, in the Kharkiv region, has dealt a severe blow to Russia’s ability to carry out artillery attacks in the area, as it was being used as a base to hold the line of defense on the Donbas border. This organization believes that Russian forces have been unable to erect a new line of defense from which to hold their positions in the area, and said the remaining units have retreated to other flanks.
The northwest, however, is not the only battle zone. In the southern Kherson region, under Russian control since the beginning of the conflict, fighting has also been raging in recent days. The sustained counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces in Kherson is damaging Russia’s combat capability in the area, the ISW says.
September 12 | Recapturing Kharkiv
The recent counteroffensive launched by Ukraine has forced Russian forces to abandon their positions in the eastern region of Kharkiv, which borders Russia and is the gateway to the coveted Russian-speaking Donbas region. The rapid counteroffensive has inflicted a “major operational defeat on Russia,” according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). In the face of the Ukrainian advance, Moscow has ordered its forces to withdraw from the entire Kharkiv region to the east of the Oskil River, according to British intelligence, meaning Russia’s troops have been pushed back to Donbas.
The withdrawal order on the eastern fringe – which represents the biggest withdrawal of Moscow’s troops since the army pulled back from the outskirts of Kyiv – is an unparalleled military success of the Ukrainian counteroffensive. By regaining of control of the key city of Izyum, Ukraine has dealt a severe blow to Moscow’s goal to control Donetsk, one of the two breakaway regions that make up the northern Donbas axis. Russia used Izyum as its westernmost post to launch attacks on Donetsk, according to the ISW. The report from ISW is supported by the latest update of the Russian Defense Ministry’s map of the conflict, which reflects the withdrawal of troops. When Kyiv announced that it was planning operations against Russian forces in Kherson, in the south of the country, Russia moved its troops away from the areas that were hit by the Ukrainian counteroffensive on the weekend.
According to the ISW, Russian forces are “not conducting a controlled withdrawal and are hurriedly fleeing southeastern Kharkiv Oblast.” The US organization reported that images shared on social media, showed abandoned tanks and military equipment near Izyum, indicating that the Kremlin’s forces were trying to escape the encirclement of the city.
According to the ISW, the success of Ukraine’s counteroffensive means that Ukraine can choose where the next battles will take place – unless Moscow finds a way to regain the upper hand. The counteroffensive, however, will not end the war, warns the organization, as Russia is likely to build a new defensive line. The ISW report indicates the war in Ukraine is set to last another year.