With unconfirmed reports that Ukraine has pushed Russia mostly out of its territory north of Kharkiv, we have been speculating where Ukraine would counter next—toward the railhead northeast of Kharkiv in Vovchansk, or the the logistical hub at Kupiansk, where three major rail lines connect. Both those locations would cut off the flow of supplies to the Izyum salient and Russia’s 22 battalion tactical groups (BTGs) in the pocket—the largest concentration of Russian forces anywhere in Ukraine.
Ukraine took a look at both of those critical logistical centers, and then decided to hit the salient directly instead.
NASA FIRMS satellite data, designed to track forest fires, gives us a perfect indication of the direction of combat:
The woods to the west of Izyum, where any Ukrainian counteroffensive would originate, are lit. It’s happening.
Also note how, east of Izyum, the line of fire exactly follows the north bank of the Donets River—those are either Ukraine’s last positions on that bank (just Lyman and Severodonetsk at this point), or Russian forces who have reached the waterline being shelled by Ukrainian artillery.
We can even see the massive artillery barrage at Russia’s ill-fated Bilohorivka river crossing attempt. If you haven’t read my story on Bilohorivka yet, I highly recommend it. It might be the most unbelievable story of the war. Meanwhile, those fires north of Kharkiv are on newly liberated Ukrainian territory, which means Russia is firing artillery on those positions either to slow down their advance, or simply out of punitive anger. Much of Russia’s military strategy appears to be a manifestation of Vladimir Putin’s aggrieved, irrational rage.
Back to the Battle of the Izyum Salient, Russian telegram claims five Ukrainian brigades are moving in on Izyum from the north, looking to directly cut off supply lines to the bulk of the Russian forces in the salient. That would be the equivalent of 10-15 Russian BTGs which seems … fantastical. Given how well Ukraine has fought, Russians may be mythifying them so they seem 10 feet tall and three times their number. But for context, a Ukrainian brigade is around 1,600 troops and 200 armored vehicles. If these reports are correct, we’re talking about 1,000 armored vehicles, and a metric buttload of artillery, raining on Russian positions. Ukraine had 20 brigades pre-war, with another four in reserve, which are likely already in action. More are being created from reservists, but there’s no indication they’ve had to be fielded just yet. So five brigades would be a massive commitment of forces.
Regardless of their actual size (and I do hope it’s five brigades), those Russian sources on telegram also say Ukraine has crossed the Donets for the attack. So if Ukraine is crossing the Donets to attack Izyum’s supply lines, then this seems like a logical place to do so:
And that NASA FIRMS map certainly supports the notion of ongoing operations both in that pocket, and on the east side of the Donets in the pink (contested) territory just west of Izyum.
Remember, Ukraine doesn’t announce operations in advance. Looking at FIRMS imagery over the past several days, we can actually see the counter-offensive began on May 10-11:
Russia abandoned Kharkiv because it had no reserves left. Ukrainian general staff and the Pentagon have said Russia has 19 BTGs in reserve in Belgorod, so why weren’t they rushed to Kharkiv to defend their supply lines? If there’s anything left in Russia, it’s likely shattered remnants and troops refusing to deploy or redeploy.
Now, with Russia already at its limits, Ukraine is taking direct aim at the largest concentration of Russian forces in Ukraine.
Guys, 20-25% of Russia’s entire Army is in that pocket.
Something big is happening.
I mean big, as in war-altering.
We were looking at Izyum’s supply hubs in Kupiansk and Vochansk. Ukraine is going straight for the jugular instead.
Ripe for defection, if you ask me. And they can call their buddies and tell them what happened.