In its latest analysis of the war in Ukraine, published on Thursday, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) wrote: “Russian forces are continuing to engage in offensive operations north of Kharkiv City, indicating that the Kremlin has territorial ambitions beyond the Donbas.”
The think tank added that these ambitions “will continue to attrit manpower and equipment, potentially at the cost of offensive power on more critical axes of advance.”
Also, “the diversion of Russian offensive combat power to secondary theaters in Ukraine may hasten the culmination of Russian offensive operations in the Donbas,” the ISW said.
The US analysts pointed out that “control of individual settlements north of Kharkiv City along the frontline is likely highly contested.”
Meanwhile, “Russian occupation authorities continued to set conditions to prepare for referenda on the annexation of occupied areas of Ukraine into the Russian Federation,” the ISW wrote, citing as an example the southern Kherson region.
It added that “in order to prepare for such referenda, Russian authorities are escalating efforts to collect personal data of Ukrainian citizens living in occupied areas.”
According to the ISW, collection of personal information will also “allow Russian authorities to consolidate administrative control of occupied areas prior to making political moves to integrate these areas directly into the Russian Federation.”
Ukraine forces holding out in Lysychansk
The UK Ministry of Defence on Thursday reported that Ukrainian forces were holding out in the key eastern city of Lysychansk, after retreating from nearby Severodonetsk.
According to the UK analysts, “Russian forces continue to pursue an approach of creeping envelopment from the Popasna direction, removing the need to force a major new crossing of the Siverskyi Donets River in this sector.”
At the moment, “ground combat is likely focused around the Lyschansk oil refinery, 10km south-west of the city centre,” they added.
The British defence analysts went on to state: “At the operational level, Russian forces continue to make limited progress as they attempt to encircle Ukrainian defenders in northern Donetsk Oblast via advances from Izium.
They also noted: “It is highly likely that Ukrainian forces’ ability to continue fighting delaying battles, and then withdraw troops in good order before they are encircled, will continue to be a key factor in the outcome of the campaign.”
Ukraine repels Russian attacks in Kharkiv, Donetsk regions
Meanwhile, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on Thursday said that Ukrainian units had repelled Russian attacks in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions.
In its daily operational update, Ukraine’s military command said: “In the Kharkiv direction, the enemy continues to defend the previously occupied positions. It carried out shelling from tanks, mortars, barrel and jet artillery in the districts of the city of Kharkiv, the settlements of Pytomnyk, Ukrayinka, Peremoha, Dementiyivka, Prudyanka, Korobochkyne and Rubizhne.”
The General Staff added: "The defenders resolutely suppressed an attempt of enemy assault in the area of Dementiyivka settlement. The occupiers left.”
It also reported on fighting around Lysychansk in the east, saying: “In the Donetsk direction, the enemy, with the support of artillery, tries to block the city of Lysychansk and take control of the section of the highway Lysychansk - Bakhmut. Fired at civilian infrastructure in the areas of the settlements of Lysychansk, Verkhnyokamyanka and Siversk. Made an airstrike near Vovchoyarivka. Conducts an offensive near Verkhnyokamyanka and assaults in the area of the Lysychansky Oil Refinery, hostilities continue.”
Meanwhile, in the Bakhmut direction, “shelling was recorded near Berestovo, Pokrovsky and Zvanivka, and an airstrike in the Pokrovsky area,” Ukraine’s military command said.
It added: “Ukrainian soldiers stopped the offensive and inflicted significant losses on the occupiers in the areas of Klynove and Novoluhanske settlements, as well as repulsed the assault in the direction of the Vuhlehirskaya TPP. In both cases the enemy withdrew.”
Ukraine’s General Staff also reported: “Our aviation and missile and artillery units continue to successfully carry out combat tasks - they hit enemy concentrations and ammunition depots.”
Thursday is day 127 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Source: PAP, understandingwar.org, facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua