Russian lines recede south of Izyum as Russia rushes to potential Kherson trap


Brave Ukrainian defender somewhere in what looks like the Kherson front

According to Ukrainian General Staff, Ukraine has launched a new offensive in Kharkiv area in northern Ukraine, “The defense forces of Ukraine advanced into the depths of the enemyʼs defenses and gained a foothold.” No details were offered, but will definitely bear watching. Russia is already emptying out the Izyum area to reinforce the Kherson front. Ukraine is forcing Russia to spread itself ever thinner, reminding them that their northern front isn’t particularly secure. 

General Staff also announced the liberation of Mazanivka and Dmytrivka in the Izyum front, something they generally don’t do unless Ukrainian forces have moved well beyond the location. We are now seeing a real roll back of Russian forces around southern Izyum:

Dmytrivka, Dibrovne, Mazanivka, and Bohorodychne were all liberated within the last week. Ukrainian forces are near Dovhen’ke 

Indeed, we had hints something was happening on this front a week ago, reading between the lines of General Staff reports: 


Turns out it was the latter! 

“Liberation” means all Russian forces contesting those settlements have been pushed away (@War_Mapper had some with the red border which means “contested”, as Bohorodychne was until recently). As for Dovhen’ke, General Staff has reported shelling of Ukrainian forces in “the area of Dovhen’ke.” Given that Russian troops don’t shell themselves (at least not intentionally), that’s usually General Staff code for “Ukrainian troops are sitting there.” In other words, while Russia might still be occupying that pile of rubble, Ukrainian forces are actively contesting it. 

Speaking of rubble, look at what’s left of Dibrovne: 

@Danspiun of course scoured the video to catalog losses after the Russian retreat: 

In the video you can see how hilly the area is. It helps explain why Russia was unable to advance quickly, and also explains why liberating it will be slow going.

The big question here, and one I’ve repeatedly asked since Russian forces seemed to lose interest in Bohorodychne, is a chicken and egg one—are Russian forces withdrawing because of strong Ukrainian pressure, or is Ukraine advancing because Russia is thinning out the region? General Staff has announced several (unsuccessful) Russian ground assaults in the area in recent days (including one against Bohorodychne yesterday), and the Ukrainian in the video above explains how they forced out the Russian garrison by cutting off its supplies. So Russia doesn’t seem to be giving up, or withdrawing on its own initiative. But the answer can also be “both”—as Ukraine degrades Russian lines and the invaders lack the reinforcements to patch up losses.

This amazing video was filmed around Dibrovne:


Note how drone operator destroys a Russian ammo truck. If they managed that consistently, maybe it was a supply issue after all. Also nice to hear the contrast between this video, with Russian artillery booming in the vicinity, and the liberation one further up, with Ukrainian troops chilling in blissful peaceful quiet. 

With Dovhen’ke now Russia’s southernmost position around Izyum, it means the front lines are back to where they were June 11. 

Meanwhile further southeast, Russian propaganda claims they’ve entered Bakhmut. We’re going to wait a few days before any kind of confirmation, but Russia often plays loose with how they define their geographic locations. 


Finally, I’ll leave you guys with a thought for further exploration—

Note how quietly Ukraine has approached its limited tactical counteroffensives around Izyum, in southern Donbas, and this new one around Kharkiv. Now compare that to Kherson, where everyone in Ukraine hasn’t shut up about their supposedly imminent counteroffensive. Even President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a big speech about “ordering” his armed forces to take Kherson back, as if the Ukrainian army was confused about their job.

If the intent was to panic the Russians into reinforcing the region, it’s been a smashing success. Russia has already moved between a quarter and a third of its total combat forces in Ukraine to the area, and according to video on Telegram, troops and equipment continue to stream in. Yesterday I wrote: 

By all indications, Russia is shifting a huge number of their forces to Kherson where they are ripe for being cut off. Supplies and access to the Kherson region run through just three easy-to-cut railroads and a handful of bridges. You know how in some stupid movie, you see the heroes headed into a trap and you scream at the screen, because it’s so obvious it’s a trap?

Yeah, that

Two weeks ago I speculated the main Ukrainian counteroffensive won’t be Kherson, but south of Zaporizhzhia and southern Donbas. I’m more and convinced that’s the play. Certainly no reason to hit a mass of Russians at Kherson when it’s far easier to cut them off. And the near-daily announcements of Ukraine’s big push to Kherson has been perfect bait. (If you haven’t yet, check out how this would play out.)

In other words, if Ukraine was serious about Kherson, they would’ve kept their mouths shut, sprung the surprise on Russia. Instead they gave them months advance notice. Ukraine isn’t that dumb. 

If this is what’s happening, we’ve got a couple more of weeks for the Kherson honeytrap to lure whatever Russians are in transit, then we can wrap up Season 3 and move toward what will hopefully be the fourth and triumphant final season of this war. 

Season 1: Battle of Kyiv
Season 2: Battle of Luhansk/Donbas
Season 3: NATO guns and HIMARS shape the battlefield 
Season 4: … endgame? 

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