Surprising advance in eastern Ukraine: Far away from the fighting near Cherson, Ukrainian units on the front in the east go on the offensive. Is Putin's invading army getting on the defensive there too?
Revolutionary movements are emerging in the war in Ukraine: the Russian military is apparently increasingly losing its military initiative. According to the latest reports, the Russian invaders are no longer only confronted with Ukrainian counterattacks in southern Ukraine near Cherson.
The armed forces of Ukraine can apparently also increase the pressure on other front sections. Recently, recordings have been circulating on social networks showing Ukrainian troops on the outskirts of the small town of Balaklija, southeast of the city of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine. The village is located on the northern bank of the Don tributary Siwerskyi Donets about 70 kilometers from Kharkiv city center.
Russian war reporters recently admitted heavy fighting near Balaklija. In a surprise attack, Ukrainian troops overran Russian positions there, it is said. The Werbiwka settlement had been recaptured. Then Ukrainian units advanced to Balaklija. Official information from Kyiv has not yet been released. So far, neither place has been mentioned in the situation reports of the Ukrainian armed forces.
Western intelligence experts, however, confirm that intense fighting has flared up in the Kharkiv region. A Ukrainian counterattack is said to have been going on in the area for several days. The town of Balaklija, which had around 27,000 inhabitants before the war, lies between Kharkiv and Russian-occupied Izyum, where there is an important railway junction for Russian supplies.
In the event of a major breakthrough at the front, the Russian troops would have to fear being cut off from their rear connections, as was the case at Cherson. The movements on the front near Kharkiv seem to make the invaders nervous: the pro-Russian separatist leader Danijl Bessonov from the Russian-occupied part of the Donetsk region was unusually open about the situation. According to him, the advance of the Ukrainian armed forces began on Tuesday with an attack on Balaklija that had been in preparation for a long time.
All accesses to Balaklija are now no longer usable because of the shelling, Bessonow explained on Telegram. Should the city fall, Russian forces would be vulnerable at Izyum on its north-west flank, he added frankly. Other Russian observers speculated that the Ukrainian advances could also target the city of Kupyansk. The recapture of Balaklija would also seal off the Russian bridgehead south of the city and block one of the few crossings over the Siwerskyi Donets.
For the Russian side, however, the attacks near Kharkiv are already having serious consequences: The Kremlin's military forces must be prepared for further sources of fire and crises along the more than 1,000-kilometer-long front line. The relocation of units to reinforce the threatened front sections requires additional effort. And with a view to the much-heralded offensive in the greater Cherson area, the Russian side is likely to have moved its available reserves hundreds of kilometers southwest to the Dnipro in recent weeks.
However, it is still unclear whether the possible Ukrainian successes on Siwerskyi Donets really mark the beginning of a second major offensive - or whether they actually represent little more than just tactically limited relief attacks. However, the attack near Kharkiv has probably already served its main purpose: Putin's generals cannot simply ignore the threat posed by Ukraine's increasingly strong defenders. Kyiv is trying to force the Russian occupiers to act at several points along the front.