Institute for the Study of War:  Russian forces make modest gains around Severodonetsk 

May 20, 2022

FULL ARTICLE

Russian forces are focusing on digging in and reinforcing defensive positions in Kharkiv and along the Southern Axis in preparation for Ukrainian counteroffensives, while the majority of active offensive operations remain confined to Izyum-Donetsk City arc and especially the Popasna-Severodonetsk area. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces are creating secondary defensive lines on the Southern Axis, indicating that the Russian grouping in this area may be preparing for a major Ukrainian counter-offensive and a protracted conflict.[i] Russian forces reportedly are holding defensive positions north of Kharkiv City following the success of the Ukrainian counteroffensive since May 5 and have conducted limited spoiling attacks either to give Russian forces time to complete their redeployment back to Russia in good order or to allow reinforcements to arrive to defend territory in Kharkiv Oblast. Significant Russian offensive operations are confined to the area of Severodonetsk. Russian troops have made marginal gains to the north, west, and south of the city, especially around Popasna, in order to attempt to take control of Severodonetsk.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces may have made marginal gains to the north, west, and south of Popasna in order to continue their offensive on Severodonetsk from the south.

  • Russian sources may be overstating the number of Ukrainian defenders who have been evacuated from Azovstal to either maximize the number of Russian prisoners of war who may be exchanged for Ukrainian soldiers or to avoid the embarrassment of admitting they have been locked into a months-long siege against only “hundreds” of Ukrainian soldiers.

  • Russian troops reportedly regained certain positions taken by the Ukrainian counteroffensive north of Kharkiv City.

  • Russian forces are likely preparing for a major Ukrainian counteroffensive and protracted conflict on the Southern Axis.