Russia’s Ministry of Defense has announced that its forces are pulling back from the Kharkiv front amid a Ukrainian counteroffensive that has seen significant gains over the past 72 hours. Russia has described the withdrawals as a strategic “regrouping,” which comes as Ukrainian forces have declared victory in the key city of Kupiansk while also advancing on the cities of Lyman, Izyum, and Lysychansk. Earlier, military bloggers close to the Russian military, Readovka and Grey Zone, described “tactical withdrawals” of Russian forces from Izyum and Lyman.
Here's the full statement from Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov on the decision to "regroup" troops from Balakliya and Izyum pic.twitter.com/P8BHn7VHOR
— Francis Scarr (@francis_scarr) September 10, 2022
Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for Russia’s Defense Ministry, stated that “In order to achieve the stated goals of the special military operation to liberate Donbass, a decision was made to regroup the Russian troops stationed in the Balakleya and Izyum regions to build up efforts in the Donetsk direction.”
“For this purpose, an operation was carried out within three days to curtail and organize the transfer of the Izyum-Balakley group of troops to the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic. During this operation, a number of distraction and demonstration activities were carried out with the designation of the real actions of the troops,” he added.
Kohashenkov also claimed that “In order to prevent damage to Russian troops, a powerful fire defeat was inflicted on the enemy using aviation, missile troops and artillery. Over 2,000 Ukrainian and foreign fighters, as well as over 100 pieces of armored vehicles and artillery, were destroyed in three days.”
Kupiansk city council pic.twitter.com/VIyRFpwnW4
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) September 10, 2022
While Ukrainian government and military sources have declared victory in Kupiansk, there has not been confirmation that the city is entirely in their control. Photos posted to social media show Ukrainian forces have advanced to central parts of the key city. Kupiansk is a major logistical hub for Russia’s ground lines of communication to support operations along the Izyum front and the rest of Luhansk. Located at the intersection of the P07 and P79 highways, as well as being a key rail hub, Kupiansk is a crucial center for supplies coming both south and west from Russia.
The capture of Kupiansk by Ukraine means Russia will lose one of its main bases of operation in the region that will cut off supply access to Izyum. This, paired with Russian forces retreating from the area suggests a near total collapse of the Kharkiv frontline that makes up the northern edge of the cauldron for their Donbas operation. It has been speculated among analysts of the Ukraine conflict that the cause for such rapid gains is due to general lack of Russian defenses in the area. Russia had diverted a significant amount of forces and equipment to counter Ukraine’s Kherson offensive, leaving sparse pockets of Luhansk Peoples’ Republic reservists to hold up the positions behind the Kharkiv frontline. Russia has re-diverted reinforcements to the area, which will likely group with retreating units to create a defensive line.
#Kharkiv Update:#Ukrainian forces have captured an estimated 2,500 square kilometers in Kharkiv Oblast in the Kharkiv area counteroffensive as of September 9. /1https://t.co/c0t0qKlltX pic.twitter.com/J5B7RxIdNo
— ISW (@TheStudyofWar) September 10, 2022
It remains unclear how the next several days will play out, as Ukraine has seemingly set its eyes on the city of Severodonetsk and many of the key highways and railways that make up the backbone of Russia’s logistical means for operations in the region. Likewise, Russia’s Defense Ministry stated forces would regroup to aid the Donetsk front, but did not mention anything about Luhansk.