This city could be Putin’s next target

Between Luhansk and Kharkiv, Russia is attacking from several directions. Apparently Putin's military has a specific goal in mind.

Russia appears to be conducting a coordinated offensive from multiple directions in eastern Ukraine. The focus is particularly on the northern section of the front line in eastern Ukraine. As the American Institute for War Studies (ISW) reports, the Russian military leadership is working on an “operationally important goal” for the first time in over a year.

The ISW analysis suggests that Moscow may hope to gain control of the eastern bank of the Oskil River, which flows through, among other places, the Kharkiv region. The coordinated attacks at several points on the Kharkiv-Luhansk axis indicate that Russia has begun a major offensive here, US analysts said. The aim of this could be to push the Ukrainian troops to the other side of the river and retake the city of Kupyansk. It is located about 120 kilometers east of the city of Kharkiv.

In February 2022, Russia attacked Ukraine in violation of international law and captured some parts of the east. Kiev has so far been able to recapture parts of it, mainly thanks to military aid from the West.

The city of Kupyansk was taken by Russian troops in 2022, but Ukraine managed to liberate it a few months later. There have been increasing Russian attacks here for weeks. According to a report in the Washington Post, residents fear that they will come under Russian rule again. “It’s very scary,” Diana Shapovalova, 34, one of the last gynecologists working in the area, told the US newspaper. “We are ready to evacuate. We have all our things packed. Our children know they have to be ready.”

The Oskil River runs through the city and was previously considered a natural barrier from Russian soldiers. As in Avdiivka, Moscow has transferred not only inexperienced recruits, but also well-trained units to the front in the region.

Success would allow Russian forces to consolidate after the planned conclusion of the offensive. The ISW estimates the risk of attacks by pushed-back Ukrainian troops to be rather low – also because ammunition for artillery is currently in short supply.

Attacks along four geographical axes

In recent days, Russian troops have targeted Ukrainian defenses near the borders with the Ukrainian regions of Kharkiv and Luhansk.

According to ISW, Russia is attacking “along four parallel axes” between Kharkiv and Luhansk. This includes advances on Kupiansk from the northeast and southeast, as well as efforts northwest from positions south of Svatove, a city in Luhansk under Russian control.

Capture of Luhansk region possible
Russian forces are also expected to advance northwest and southwest of Kreminna, including toward the city of Lyman in Kharkiv Oblast. There are also said to be smaller Russian gains around the Robotyne settlement area in Zaporizhia, one of the few villages that Ukraine successfully recaptured from Russia as part of its counteroffensive in the summer of 2023.

After the conquest of Avdiivka, securing a side of the river or even taking Kupyansk could be another military success that Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin could claim as his own. The Russian ruler apparently wants to exploit further progress as propaganda shortly before the presidential elections. According to the ISW, it is also possible that the goal of the Russian offensive is the complete capture of the Luhansk region. Ukraine currently only controls small areas there.

Ukraine is pushing for ammunition deliveries

Meanwhile, Ukraine is still waiting for promises of more military support from the US. Those commitments have been delayed in Congress since late last year. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had called for the West to make decisions about arms deliveries more quickly.

The chairman of the European People’s Party, Manfred Weber, wants to focus the European Union’s (EU) ammunition production exclusively on Ukraine. “The Ukrainian army is increasingly running out of ammunition. As in the Covid pandemic, all EU production must now be bundled in a show of strength and delivered to Ukraine,” said Weber on Tuesday.


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