Most of the attention today is focused on events related to Rupture by Russia of the Kakhovka dam. Given that thousands of square miles are inundated, thousands of people will be displaced, and the region’s ecology and economy will be affected for decades, this level of attention is well deserved.
But across the country, the fighting continues. Russia may have intended to slow the start of Ukraine’s counter-offensive with an indisputable war crime, but in places like Bakhmut the guns have certainly not been silenced.
Fighting continues both on the eastern front around Bakhmut and on the southern front around Velyka Novosilka. There are reports of Ukrainian advances in several areas, as well as Russian recapture of an area that had been liberated a day earlier. And across the Russian border in Belgorod, there is another change in the situation as the Russian Volunteer Corps brings something new to their conflict: tanks.
On Monday, it was reported that Ukraine had crossed the “road of death” to retake the area just below Berkhivka, northwest of the city. On Tuesday, Ukraine reportedly advanced again, taking most or all of the city while pushing back Russian forces from the positions they held around the reservoir at the southwestern end of Berkhivka.
At the same time, other Ukrainian forces pushed from the west, reaching the end of the Russian salient along the M30 highway (top arrow on the map) and pushing it back about 3 kilometers.
There would still be Russian artillery around the village of Dubovo-Vasylivka, right in the middle of these two Ukrainian advances. These forces now risk being cut off or surrounded. Forcing this group to retreat takes the heat off the “road of life” through Khromove, which has carried much of the supply burden in the region for the past six months, and brings Ukraine closer to the recovery of the use of the M03, which was lost at the first of the year.
In Bakhmut itself, there are more earnings reports, but no details. I put a small blue polygon around the area of the appliance factory at the southern entrance to Bakhmut, but it’s not so much an area reclaimed from Russia as territory that was never really lost. Russia was in no hurry to occupy the positions exposed to Ukrainian artillery, mortar and direct fire. It would be nice to show parts of the city coming back under Ukrainian control, but the details are not currently available and Ukraine could be in the same position: occupying this land would expose he to Russian fire, for little real benefit.
South of the city there are more reports of Ukrainian forces moving towards Klishchiivka and its grand prize – the high ground west of the settlement. Videos emerge on Monday showing Ukrainian forces crossing the canal south of the city and coming up from the southwest. Other forces push from the west towards the fortifications on the hill above the town. If Ukraine can win these fortifications, they will have a position that fires at the Russians to the east (and another excellent artillery position to fire at the areas around Bakhmut from a new direction). Things seem to be moving in this area, so expect more updates.
One thing worth noting about this map is the scale. After months of tracking control changes that occurred block by block on maps zoomed in to have a scale of a few hundred meters, this scale bar at the bottom right of this map is 10 kilometers. Ukraine reportedly took positions in the south that were captured by Russia in January. It’s not a major counter-offensive, but it has quite significant results.
This area caught the eye on Monday when Ukraine suddenly moved against the Russian line in three places, but on Tuesday the action in the area appeared to have been reduced.
In the West. Russian sources report that Ukraine has liberated the city of Novodarivka. However, an attempt to reach Rivnopil, 5 kilometers to the east, resulted in the loss of as many as 10 Ukrainian vehicles and an unknown number of men.
According to reports, fighting continues around Neskuchne at the center of this effort. However, there does not appear to be any confirmed change in the control zones.
To the east, Ukraine would have liberated Novodonetske on Monday, but Russia would have pushed back part of the town overnight. Ukrainian forces reportedly took an area west of this town, leaving a large area in dispute.
Like Monday, what is interesting in these attacks is their scale not. Despite Russian claims that 1,500 men and 150 vehicles were wiped out, it does not appear that much equipment was invested in all these combined attacks. Moreover, despite Russian claims, there does not seem to be evidence of the use of a large number of new NATO equipment in this area. Obviously, this is part of the counter-offensive, because everything Ukraine does at this stage is part of its strategy going forward. But it’s not at all the kind of large-scale combined-arms action that many expect from all those new Western-trained and equipped Ukrainian brigades.
What is disconcerting about the movement of the Russian Volunteer Corps (known as the RDK) and other anti-Putin Russian forces into the Belgorod region is how slow Russia has been to react. A week earlier, when the Russian opposition force crossed another border post 90 kilometers to the west, Russia put on a huge show by sending a high-ranking commander and elite airborne VDV forces to the hunt. But this time, the aligned Ukrainian forces stationed at Novaya Tavolzhanka appear to be considerably lower on Russia’s to-do list.
RDK forces repeatedly took Russian soldiers prisoner, killed a Russian colonel leading a small force sent to meet them, and essentially taunted Russian forces for six consecutive days. The maps in circulation showing an expanding “People’s Republic of Belgorod” are a joke…probably. But the fact that these guys were able to support a small occupying force in Russia for almost a week is hard to understand.
And now …
As of Tuesday evening, RDK forces claimed to control the entire border settlement of Novaya Tavolzhanka (pop. 5,300). This claim was supported by statements on Russian Telegram channels.
This is enough to give the impression that the 400,000 Rosgvardia (“National Guard”) exist only to serve as Vladimir Putin’s personal army rather than for the defense of the nation.