Daily Report from the Ukraine Field for 2022-08-04
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GB: Allow me to expand on @Yurasumy's analysis above (I initially wrote down "somewhat disagree", but what follows is perhaps better qualified as an augmentation of his reasoning).
1) The bridgehead across the Seversky Donets river from Balakelya, in the Bayrak-Gusarovka-Novaya Gusarovka triangle, if secured, carries for the Russian army the immediate significance of directly threatening the Chepil-Protopopovka-Petrovsky grouping of the Ukrainian army, which continues routinely to organize hopeless attempts to finally cross the river en masse using pontoon bridges. As many are aware, this is the big sister of the Ukrainian pontoon crossing across the Ingulets river in the Kherson region.
It further takes care of the Ukrainian salient jutting out into the Russian-controlled territory south of Balakleya, east to Savintsy, and south to Shchastlivoye, Levkovka, and Ivanovka (and then back west to the Chepil area). Previous attempts to resolve this salient were made by the Russian forces with attacks on Nortsovka and Zaliman. They were not pursued vigorously and were likely probing reconnaissance-in-force.
But what of this salient? Where does it come from? Well, simply, it is the line of the river Seversky Donets. The existence of the salient has nothing to do with actual combat between the warring parties, and everything to do with our old friend, that damn river.
The river that has made it her mission to decide the fates of this war. It is this river that has permitted Ukrainians (and I am only touching here on her effect in this theatre of the conflict) to defend the southern bank of Izyum for nearly a month. It is also this river that has allowed them to play their infantile pontoon crossing games relatively unmolested. However, it is also this river that has made all their efforts in this theatre largely pointless and impotent, once they lost Izyum for good.
So, protecting the Izyum grouping as it carries on the offensive on Slavyansk from the north and northwest means, in this case, resolving the sandbox full of mice centered on the Chepil-Protopopovka-Petrovsky line. This would also remove the unsightly salient.
2) As for the "bridgehead central to the offensive operation in Kharkov," this gives me pause. On the one hand, it is a less well-defended position than Zmiyev. On the other hand, it is so much further from Kharkov and Zmiyev would still need to be taken regardless of the outcome here. If Russia is not prepared to take smaller towns like Zmiyev, she has no business going for Kharkov. So, whether the Kharkov offensive takes place this year or not, I am not so certain that this is the central bridgehead that would enable it to proceed.
En route to Merefa/Kharkov from Gusarovka lie the not-insignificant cities, towns, and settlements of Pervomaisky, Troitsky, Paseky-Taranovka, and Berki. From Zmiyev to Merefa/Kharkov one encounters only Sokolovo and Berki. In addition, liberation of Zmiyev is necessary for the proper encirclement of Kharkov.
While taking Gusarovka and moving up to Merefa along the southern bank of Seversky Donets would secure the flank of the encircling force, Seversky Donets already does that rather effectively. All in all, it is Zmiyev that needs to be taken, and it is cities like Chuguev, Zmiyev, Merefa, and Ljubotin that are central to encircling Kharkov. Not Gusarovka.
(all the maps provided in the post that follows)
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