Key Takeaways from the ISW:

  • Russian forces are conducting relatively limited offensive operations along the Russian-Ukrainian border in northern Kharkiv Oblast and continued to make tactically significant gains in likely less defended areas. The reported sizes of the Russian elements committed to these limited operations and of the Russian force grouping deployed along the border in northeastern Ukraine indicate that Russian forces are not pursuing a large-scale operation to envelop, encircle, or seize Kharkiv City at this time.
  • Russian forces reportedly launched offensive operations along the Russian-Ukrainian border in northern Kharkiv Oblast before they had completed bringing the Northern Grouping of Forces up to its reported planned end strength and have so far only committed a limited amount of combat power to offensive operations in the area.
  • ISW continues to assess that the Russian offensive operations in northern Kharkiv Oblast likely aim to draw Ukrainian forces from other sectors of the front while allowing Russian forces to advance to within tube artillery range of Kharkiv City.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian military command may be evaluating the risks, prospects, and timeline of offensive operations in northern Kharkiv Oblast based on the assumption that Ukraine cannot and will not be able to liberate territory seized by Russian forces. Putin's and the Russian military command's calculus about the threat of Ukrainian territorial gains is likely shaping Russia's overall operational approach to seizing territory in Ukraine.
  • The limited Russian offensive operations in northern Kharkiv Oblast suggest that the resumption of US security assistance has not changed Putin's calculus or that he launched the Kharkiv effort without reassessing the operation's fundamental assumptions about Ukrainian capabilities in light of the resumption of aid.
  • The directions of Russian offensive operations in the international border area suggest that Russia may be attempting to create a "buffer zone" to protect Belgorod City, as Russian and Ukrainian officials have recently stated.
  • Russian forces appear to be attempting to quickly isolate the battlespace east of the Siverskyi Donets River and seize Vovchansk, a direction of advance that Russian forces may believe could threaten the Ukrainian grouping defending in the Kupyansk direction.
  • Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) Head Denis Pushilin reiterated a series of Kremlin narratives intended to justify Russia's invasion of Ukraine and attempted to flatter Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian military during an interview in honor of the 10th anniversary of the DNR's founding, likely in an attempt to curry favor in the Kremlin.
  • Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted successful drone strikes against a Russian oil refinery in Volgograd Oblast on the night of May 10 to 11.
  • Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin submitted proposals on the composition of the new Russian government to the State Duma on May 11.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances in northern Kharkiv Oblast; near Svatove, Chasiv Yar, Avdiivka, and Donetsk City; in western Zaporizhia Oblast; and in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) continues to highlight frontline Russian units fighting in Ukraine.

ISW - map.

Authors: Riley Bailey, Angelica Evans, Nicole Wolkov, Christina Harward, and Frederick W. Kagan.

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