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Russians use new tactic in Kharkiv Oblast – ISW

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Russians use new tactic in Kharkiv Oblast – ISW

The pace of the Russian offensive in northern Kharkiv Oblast seems to have slowed over the past 24 hours. This is likely due to the new tactics employed by Russian troops and heavy Russian losses. The Russians are planning to unite the footholds in Lyptsi and Vovchansk and create a border „buffer zone“.

Source: Institute for the Study of War (ISW)

Details: ISW confirmed that Russian troops are preferring to create a „buffer zone“ near the border rather than to penetrate deeply into Kharkiv Oblast. 

Several Ukrainian military officials reported on 14 May that they believed the situation in the Kharkiv Oblast was slowly stabilising.

Several Russian and Ukrainian sources also reported that Russian troops are using a new tactic in this area – small assault groups of no more than five people penetrate Ukrainian positions and then combine with other small assault groups to form a larger strike group. 

Drone footage supposedly taken in Vovchansk shows Russian infantry operating in small assault groups within the town, confirming these reports.

Military analysts believe that the use of small assault groups could, however, contribute to increased losses of Russian manpower and equipment and slow the overall pace of the offensive on this front. 

One Russian military commentator, who previously served as a Storm-Z unit instructor, complained that the footage of small Russian assault groups reflected poor training rather than new and effective tactics.

Ukrainian military observer Kostiantyn Mashovets noted that the increase in Russian losses on this front is leading to a slowdown in the overall pace of offensive operations. 

Major General Anatolii Barhylevych, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, suggested that the Russian forces had lost up to 1,740 soldiers on this front over the last 24 hours alone, which is a very high casualty rate.

ISW is unable to confirm this figure, but the likely level of casualties is consistent with the overall slowdown in the offensive observed on 14 May. If the pace of Russian operations remains relatively slow, Russian forces are likely to focus on consolidating new positions and building up a lateral ledge in Kharkiv Oblast by merging the Lyptsi and Vovchansk groups and creating a „buffer zone“ in the border area, rather than pushing further inland as ISW previously assessed.

To quote the ISW’s Key Takeaways on 14 May:  

The pace of Russian offensive operations in northern Kharkiv Oblast appears to have slowed over the past 24 hours, and the pattern of Russian offensive activity in this area is consistent with ISW’s assessment that Russian forces are prioritising the creation of a „buffer zone“ in the international border area over a deeper penetration of Kharkiv Oblast.
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Putin appointed former Tula Oblast Governor Alexei Dyumin and former Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev as his presidential assistants on 14 May, further re-balancing his ministerial cabinet for his fifth term.
The Georgian parliament passed Georgia’s Russian-style „foreign agents“ bill in its third and final reading on 14 May, amid continued protests against the bill in Tbilisi.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that the US is interested in a bilateral security agreement with Ukraine during a visit to Kyiv on 14 May.
Likely Ukrainian actors conducted a strike against a Russian railway line in Volgograd Oblast on 14 May.
Russian forces recently marginally advanced near Lyptsi, Vovchansk, Svatove, Chasiv Yar, Avdiivka, Donetsk and Krynky.
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