A deliberate Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) offensive in the south Kharkiv region has effectively surrounded several Russian Federation (RF) combat units with little chance to escape, multiple information platforms said on Friday.

Continuing local AFU attacks in southeast Kharkiv and northwest Luhansk regions since mid-September have now gained so much ground that Ukrainian troops have practically cut off the town of Lyman, both RF-associated and international sources said, with only a single road under heavy AFU artillery fire still open for RF forces to receive supplies, or to try to escape.

“The city [Lyman] as before is under Russian Army control. But supply routes are under effective fire by the Neonazis [Editorial note: AFU] … our units were forced to retreat from Yampil and Dobrysheve. The enemy is increasing its bombardments and assaults. Lyman has adopted a circular defense,” the usually reliable pro-RF poster WarGonzo said, in a Friday morning situation update.

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The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in a Thursday report said that, based on evidence, RF forces in the “Lyman pocket” are practically isolated and have no safe route of retreat. RF military poster and Ukrainian independent Ukrainian media said the main RF supply route – the hard road between the towns of Lyman and Kremmina – was under continual AFU artillery and mortar fire, and from time to time interdicted by HIMARS precision rocket strikes.

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According Donetsk-based military posters, a mixed band of locally recruited special forces, police fighters called BARS, conscripted militia from the Luhansk region, elements of 752nd Guards Motor Rifle Regiment, and rear area troops from the RF’s 20th Army are caught in the Lyman encirclement. The force is some 5,500 men, said Ukrainian military analyst Taras Berezovets in a tweet.

A post by the pro-Russia blogger Starshy Eddy said that men of BARS-13 are “heroically defending” Dobrysheve, a village directly on the Lyman-Kremmina road. “Heavy battles are  underway”, the report said, citing purported sources in BARS.

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Ukraine’s Army General Staff (AGS) in its Friday morning situation update was effectively silent on the progress of the AFU attacks in the Lyman sector, but, in its daily estimated kill report noted that AFU troops over the last 24 hours reported the greatest RF losses in the “Kramatorsk and Donetsk sectors” – a 70-kilometer belt of territory containing Lyman, the tactically important village Yampil and containing the Sviati Hory National Park, a thickly wooded region that makes it difficult for heavy vehicles moving in.

The AFU’s powerful Kharkiv offensive, was launched in early September. Led by special forces and light infantry infiltrating at night around RF positions in Balakliya, it has liberated more than 6,000 square kilometers in slightly less than two weeks. In a wave of silent, surprise attacks, AFU foot soldiers demolished or put to flight the defenders of a thin cordon of RF defensive positions, opening the way for a blitzkrieg-style breakthrough by AFU tanks and mechanized infantry.

AFU ground units in the Sviati Hory forest belt, according to news and official reports, have continued the tactic, advancing at night, in fog or rain to probe for weak points in the RF line, and swooping down on defensive positions or occupied villages held tenuously by the RF.

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A Ukrainian infantryman equipped with a NATO-standard night vision device posted a video of himself standing in front of a military office in Yampil on Friday morning, saying “Well kittens, Yampil is ours!” Multiple RF posters confirmed the loss of the village to the AFU, but by midday on Friday there was no official Ukrainian confirmation of Yampil’s capture.

Destruction or surrender of the cut-off RF troops and equipment would be another significant battlefield defeat for the Kremlin, following its failures to the north of Kyiv in March and to the east of Kharkiv in September, the ISW said.

The RF’s deteriorating military situation around Lyman is already drawing harsh criticism from RF propagandists warning that the Russia may be on the precipice of yet another serious military defeat caused by the incompetence of its generals.

Vladimir Solovyov, probably the best-known Kremlin cheerleader, said Thursday on RF state television: “I just don’t understand what’s going on … we have an army of more than a million, why can’t we send reinforcements [to Lyman’s defenders] … Would you generals do this please?”

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Anatoly Shariy, a Ukrainian blogger and vociferous advocate of the Kremlin party line, likewise slammed Russian army leadership for an impending disaster at Lyman: “So far, it can be stated with certainty that the [Russian] army top leadership did not draw any conclusions at all from the failure in the Kharkiv region. Exactly none at all. At all.”

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