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May 17, 2024, 7:04am EDT
Europe
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Semafor Signals

Russia’s Kharkiv advance aims to stretch Ukraine’s forces thin

Insights from The New York Times, the Institute for the Study of War, and The Washington Post

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A Ukrainian serviceman of the attack drones battalion of the Achilles, 92nd brigade carries a first-person view (FPV) drone before it flies, near a Russian border in a Kharkiv region, Ukraine May 15, 2024. REUTERS/Inna Varenytsia
Inna Varenytsia/Reuters
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The News

Russia’s offensive into Ukraine’s northeastern region of Kharkiv is driven less by a desire to seize territory than by a strategy to spread Kyiv’s forces thin, analysts said.

The Russian advance that began last week marks a new strategy, experts wrote in The New York Times, forcing Ukrainian troops to withdraw from several villages in recent days as they are outnumbered by Russian forces.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Moscow wants to force Ukrainian troops into one area

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The New York Times

Russia’s strategy is to inundate one area with fighting and pull Ukraine’s troops into the same region, thereby leaving other parts of the front exposed, two military analysts wrote in The New York Times. It isn’t Moscow’s goal to take Kharkiv — rather, it wants “to menace it by advancing toward the city and threatening it with artillery,” Michael Kofman and Rob Lee noted. Russia doesn’t have the personnel to attack Kharkiv outright, but it aims to “create a dilemma” for Kyiv by drawing Ukraine’s better troops towards its second most populous city. Ultimately, Moscow is looking to control the region of Donetsk. By forcing Ukrainian redeployments to Kharkiv, Donetsk is left “even more vulnerable” they argued.

Shelling has prevented Ukraine from bolstering its defenses

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Source:  
Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian defense officials believe that Russia is trying to take the eastern towns of Lukyantsi and Vovchansk, areas that would give them good footing for a future advance on the city of Kharkiv, The Institute for the Study of War noted. Ukrainian troops have been able to fend off Russian forces from these areas through counterattacks and drone strikes, but Moscow’s near-constant shelling of the Kharkiv region has made it difficult for Ukraine to bolster its defenses near the Ukraine-Russia border, the ISW wrote. Russian troops have made “tactical advances” in the north of the region for the past week, it added, “and currently appear to be prioritizing the creation of a ‘buffer zone’ over a deep penetration into Kharkiv.”

Russian push caught Kyiv by surprise

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Source:  
The Washington Post

Ukraine relies on Starlink, a satellite internet service owned by Elon Musk, to monitor for Russia’s movements. But on May 10, when Moscow began its new push towards Kharkiv, electronic jamming brought down the internet and Ukraine’s video feeds, The Washington Post reported. The attack left troops “completely blind,” a Ukrainian drone unit commander told the newspaper. “This was the biggest problem, we didn’t see how they were moving, we only worked through radio or through phones where they still worked,” he said. As a result, Russia was able to capture a stretch of territory near the two nations’ border.

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