Supported by new deliveries of artillery shells and swarms of FPV drones, Ukrainian infantry continued to attack in the northern Kharkiv sector over the weekend. Although they only made limited gains, they were undoubtedly dictating the terms of battle against hard-pressed Russian formations trying to hold them back.

Reports on Monday, July 1 indicated that intense fighting was still in progress in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region, specifically around the town of Vovchansk near Russia’s western border, and the village of Lyptsi to the east.

Russia’s commanders launched their latest offensive into the Kharkiv region in early May with the intention of compelling Ukraine’s much smaller forces into bloody attritional battles with numbers meaning that Kyiv’s troops couldn’t hope to win.

Advertisement

An analysis on Saturday by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) assessed that the Kremlin’s strategy is based on “Russian President Vladimir Putin's theory of victory that Russia will be able to make creeping advances in Ukraine indefinitely.”

In Vovchansk, for more than a month the epicenter of Russia’s assault on the Kharkiv region, weekend reports were almost all in agreement that Ukrainian forces had grasped the initiative and that Russian forces were on the back foot, defending furiously.

According to some accounts, with evidence from drone videos, recent combat around Vovchansk has marked one of the very few times that Russian forces have not enjoyed overwhelming firepower superiority since the start of the February 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

NATO and the Ever-Elusive Ukrainian Victory
Other Topics of Interest

NATO and the Ever-Elusive Ukrainian Victory

President Zelensky says that defining what constitutes victory is central to building a war-winning strategy but acknowledges that others may understand victory differently from him.

Official weekend statements, backed up on Monday, by Russia’s Ministry of Defense claimed that the fighting in Vovchasnk was going well and that Ukrainian forces were taking “serious” losses. Unusually there was no mention of Russian attacks or gains.

Ukrainian media widely reported fierce infantry battles were happening throughout Vovchansk, with fighting most intense around the Aggregate Factory, a network of strongly built factory and storage buildings in the south of the town which held a dominating position in the town.

Advertisement

Russian milbloggers announced the launch of a new wave of assaults on Sunday intended to relieve its troops that have been isolated inside the plant for nearly a month. By Monday most non-Russian sources reported these attempts at relief had suffered substantial losses and that Russian paratroopers held inside the factory were almost totally surrounded.

An ISW situation estimate on July 1 said it was probable Ukrainian forces needed to advance only a further 200 meters, to completely cut off the Russian troops inside the factory – identified by many sources as elite paratroopers from Moscow’s 83rd Airborne Brigade.

On Saturday a video allegedly recorded by two members of Russia’s 1009 Airborne Infantry Regiment, 25th Paratrooper Brigade, and published on the Russiacontext Telegram channel, seemed to attest to failed Russian attempts to reach the cut-off paratroopers over the weekend.

The speaker, Yevgeniy Valetov, said he and his brother Igor had been thrown into an unsupported assault in Vovchansk, in an attempt to reach the factory and that their unit suffered heavy losses.

Advertisement

“Our attack was completely unsuccessful. Everyone was wounded. Some ran away. I don’t know what happened to them. Maybe they were wounded, maybe they got killed. My brother and I were wounded. We did first aid ourselves and ran to hide in a forest. Our commander says that tomorrow we have to attack again, to assault some buildings. But what kind of condition are we in?” Valetov complained in an intercepted phone call.

He went on to appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin to intervene and prevent local commander from throwing wounded soldiers into pointless attacks.

Screenshot of wounded Russian soldiers Yevgeniy and Igori Valetov

Nazar Voloshin, spokesman for Ukraine’s joint forces command in the Kharkiv sector, told a national news program on Saturday that according to Ukrainian military intelligence the Russia’s 83rd Airborne Brigade was now combat ineffective, and claimed that Russian troop morale among other units in Vovchansk was beginning to fail.

Advertisement

“In the Vovchansk sector there are enemy units that are refusing orders. There are numerous cases of refusal by Russian personnel, including the assault detachment of the 153rd tank regiment, to execute orders, because they also had losses in the command staff and in the assault groups,” Voloshin said.

Ukraine’s Army General Staff made a statement on Monday said Russian assaults inside Vovchansk over the weekend had all been repelled by Ukrainian forces repelled. “The situation is under control,” it said.

Since mid-June Ukraine’s military, which had been left without substantial artillery ammunition supplies since late October because of political wrangling in the US and Europe, began receiving limited quantities of ammunition.  Over the weekend new evidence appeared that around Vovchansk Ukrainian artillery spotters are now able to take on targets at will – after months of having to count every round and often having to let targets escape for lack of ammunition.

Ukraine’s army command published video of a late June Russian infantry attack in the Vovchansk sector on Sunday. It seems that omnipresent Ukrainian drone operators were able to call in precise mortar and artillery strikes on individual buildings in which Russian soldiers were hiding.

A strike drone group attached to Ukraine’s Third Assault Brigade, which had deployed to Vovchansk sector in late June, published video of two Russian soldiers attempting to evacuate a single casualty coming under multiple 155mm cluster munitions strikes on Sunday.

Advertisement

During the months of the shell deficit Ukrainian gunners normally only fired cluster munitions shells at major Russian attacks and did not “waste ammunition” on small groups of soldiers.  The strike group Terra said that now any Russian soldier spotted would be hit.

Open-source outlets report that Kyiv has positioned elements from at least eight battle-tested combat brigades in the Kharkiv sector, backed up with dozens of strike drone groups drawn from across Ukraine, and two artillery brigades, in a bid to defeat Russian attrition tactics by killing or wounding more Russian soldiers faster than replacements can feed them into battle.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the US newspaper Philadelphia Inquirer in an interview published on Sunday that the exchange rate of losses had been four to one in Ukraine’s favor and that, following recent massed Russian attacks in the Kharkiv and Pokrovsk sectors against newly-capable Ukrainian defenses, the ratio had increased to six to one. Given sufficient firepower by its allies, the Ukrainian military can not only halt the Russian army but throw it back, Zelensky claimed.

Advertisement

Composite image by Ukrainian military analyst Politsor to showing current in Vovchansk. Recent Ukrainian advances (light blue) and the partially-surrounded aggregate factory (yellow-green, bottom-right).

To suggest a correction or clarification, write to us here
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter