Ukraine used cunning and firepower to blow up a devastating hole in Russia’s eastern frontline.
The prospect of a Ukrainian counterattack against Russian-held positions in the south of the country has long been anticipated and discussed by both sides.
But scenes of Ukrainian forces in recent days tearing down the Russian flag and the hanging of their colors back to the villages, towns and cities in the eastern region of Kharkiv caught most people off guard, including – it seems – the Russians.
With minimal fanfare, Ukraine’s military has achieved its most significant achievements since the Russian army was forced to abandon plans to capture the capital Kyiv at the end of March.
Its soldiers – in a flash attack – recaptured hundreds of square miles of territory in the Kharkiv area formerly under Russian control, including villages, towns and even cities. city.
The victory entailed a period of almost complete silence from Ukrainian commanders and political leaders about any military action.
Access to the entire frontline has been cut off for all journalists, with the exception of those from the Ukrainian military or Defense Ministry, since the end of August.
This is part of a plan to limit the flow of information reaching the Russian side and potentially affecting the mission. The move underscores the importance of information, or in this case, withholding information, in times of war.
Under the cover of this communication blackout and aided by an increasingly powerful influx of Western weapons, the Ukrainian military launched their attacks.
The move is calculated to exploit Russia’s weakness
The beginning of the much-heralded counterattack against the southern Kherson area was confirmed – with minimal comment – on 29 August.
But nothing was said about what appeared to be a calculated move against Russian forces in the Kharkiv region.
The British Ministry of Defense on Saturday confirmed that Operation Kharkiv had been launched four days earlier.
Moscow sent thousands of troops into Kherson to fortify its flanks against a southern offensive. But the commanders appear to have left their lines in Kharkiv dangerously fragile – a weakness the Ukrainians seem to have noticed and exploited.
Images of the Kharkiv offensive have only begun to appear in the past three days on social media channels of troops involved in the operation and journalists and other commentators closely following Russia’s war in Syria. Ukraine.
The campaign went so badly for the Russians that even pro-Russian social media sites began to confirm Ukraine’s advances.
As profits gained momentum, more official comments were made, including that of the president of Ukraine.
On Saturday, Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, also broke through the hideout.
He claims in the video that the small city of Balakliia has been liberated and that others will follow suit. The top commander said Kupiansk – an important logistics hub for Russian forces that helps support troops in the key Donbas region in the southeast – as well as Izyium, an even more important solution. strategically in the Kharkiv region.
Then, the Russian Defense Ministry made an unusual announcement, saying that its troops in Balakliia and Izyium were “regrouping” in the Donetsk region, part of the Donbas.
A ministry spokesman tried to make it appear that the move was focused on the stated military goals of the Russian invasion – the “liberation” of Ukraine’s Donbas – as opposed to a retreat. hurry.
A similar kind of fake explanation was offered in March to try to explain Russia’s failure to capture Kyiv in its own attempt in a flash offensive in the first weeks of the war.
The retreat from two key positions in the Kharkiv area once again demonstrates the military’s ability, will to fight and the skillful use of information to control what is known about the battle that defeated the army. Russia is much more powerful.
The big question, however, is whether these rapid gains can be consolidated and whether this moment of success can be sustained, so that the recaptured land remains in Ukraine’s hands.