Ukrainian forces surprised the Russian occupiers with a one-to-two punch on Thursday, penetrating deep into enemy territory to open a second front there. Kyiv counterattack.
Ukrainian authorities have announced the liberation of 20 villages in the northeast, outside Kharkiv, while the army has been pressing for the occupied city of Izyum – all the while. Fierce fighting continued for Kherson in the south.
Oleksiy Harumov, deputy chief of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said Thursday that his country’s forces – which were advancing towards Donbass from Kharkiv – had penetrated more than 30 miles behind Russia’s defensive line.
“Since the beginning of the week, the Ukrainian Armed Forces, in cooperation with units of the National Guard and other security forces, have been conducting active operations in certain directions,” he said. According to the Ukrainian outlet Ukrinform. “In the course of active operations in the Kharkiv direction, more than 20 settlements were liberated.”
Videos circulating on social media on Thursday claimed to show Ukrainian forces bring down the Russian flag At Nova Husarevka, halfway between the front line and the city of Izyum, a major Russian staging post.
The video came on the heels of reports from Russian separatists on Wednesday of enemy friction in Balaklia, north of Nova Husaryvka, and The downing of a Russian plane in Volkhiv Yarand even further north – the speed and direction of the Ukrainian advance point to Izyum as a target.
Russian media did not confirm the loss of the villages – but cited pro-Moscow Chechen fighters who claimed to have repelled a Ukrainian attack on the other side of Izyum, near the Donbass cities of Solidar and Svirsk.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov – Putin’s puppet subject to exaggeration – told the Russian news agency TASS that his forces had sealed the Ukrainian advance.
“The Ukrainian leadership is sending detachments of soldiers to semi-suicide missions,” Kadyrov said.
He added that “this picture of the soldiers of the Ukrainian armed forces recklessly attacking our positions was repeated for the fourth day and many times.”
But the Ukrainian gains, if confirmed, represent a major victory for Kiev after months of stalemate after the fall of Luhansk, north of the two provinces that make up the industrial heart of the Donbass region.
And if Ukrainian forces capture Izyum, the move is expected to cut a major supply line for the Russian army already besieged in Donbass.
Ukrainian Brigadier General. General Oleksiy Gromov briefed reporters on the movements in the northeast on Thursday, praising the slow-moving Turkish-made Bayraktar aircraft.
“The enemy’s infantry and motorized artillery units that are not protected by air defense systems become easy prey for Birktarna,” he said.
The victories come after weeks of so-called “formation operations” – preparing the battlefield in Kyiv’s favour, often by striking bridges and supply routes with Western-made long-range rocket artillery, cutting off Russian forces from supplies and each other.
The attack on Russia’s northern flank seems to have taken the Kremlin by surprise. With continued Ukrainian pressure on the Kherson region in the south, the Ukrainian army effectively divided Russia’s interest in two – and disrupted Russian supply lines between the two fronts.
Ukrainian authorities said Thursday that the Russian leadership continues to focus on capturing Kherson – an early reward for Moscow in the early days of the invasion.
Hromov told reporters that Ukrainian forces continue to make gains on the southern front in Kherson – but the Russian resistance remains.
On Thursday, the Defense Ministry said that Ukrainian artillery continued to harass Russian supply and supply lines in the region, under the direction of guerrilla forces behind Russian lines.