A Blog by Jonathan Low


Sep 28, 2022

As Conscripts Arrive, Maps Show Russian Forces In Lyman Pocket Being Cut Off

"Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide" - Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Motown, 1965.  JL 

Mark Sumner reports in Daily Kos:

Lyman isn’t fully encircled, but considering the way Mud Season has moved into the area and reports that Ukrainian forces have managed to begin attacks on Stavky, there seems to be very little opportunity for Russian forces in this area to escape. The counteroffensive has now liberated 700 square kilometers in the Lyman area. In Crimea, buses began to arrive carrying Russian conscripts called up during the mobilization. For some of these soldiers, training consists of a couple  days of riding buses and whatever tips they could pick up in transit.

On Tuesday, buses began to arrive in Crimea carrying Russian conscripts called up during the mobilization. For some of these soldiers, training is apparently going to consist of a couple of days sleeping on cots, and whatever tips they could pick up in transit. Those troops immediately got a ceremony—a “departure ceremony”—as they were directed to the front lines. There are other reports of similar troops arriving in the Donetsk area. Considering how Russia’s attack on Bakhmut has sometimes consisted of simply sending wave after wave of unsupported infantry up the slope at entrenched positions, these men should do just as well as those with years of experience.

In general, over the last two days fighting in Ukraine has gone like this:

  1. Russia has made a number of attacks in the Soledar to Bakhmut area, most of which have been repelled but some of which have gained some ground, usually measuring in meters. 
  2. Ukraine has continued to expand its area of control northwest of Lyman, liberating more towns along the east bank of the Oskil River and extending across the border between Donetsk and Kharkiv oblasts as it works to both the north and east in a counteroffensive that has now liberated 700 square kilometers in the Lyman area.
  3. Ukraine is pushing two additional bridgeheads across the Oskil that have captured a number of towns and engaged in what are described as very large battles with Russian forces. These battles so far seem to be going Ukraine’s way and offer a potential for an additional area of counteroffensive breakthrough.
  4. When it comes to operations in the south, whether in Zaporizhzhia or Kherson, there are reports of heavy artillery duels, long lists of locations shelled, and some fairly hefty amounts of Russian equipment and materiel reported destroyed, but I have nothing when it comes to significant changes on the ground.
Two expanding bridgeheads that could merge as early as today. As always, open image in another tab for a larger look.

In the northeast area of Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine is expanding bridgeheads at Dvorichna and Kupyansk.

At Dvorichna, Ukraine reportedly has two major moves underway. One is toward Tavilzhanka, which is along a major highway that goes to a border crossing into Russia. Fighting there has been described as intense over the last two days, but Ukrainian troops have reportedly entered the western part of the town and found a large cache of that most vital Russian supply: stolen washing machines. Seriously, this is some kind of illness.

That bridgehead is also pushing to the south, where it’s reportedly reached the town of Lyman Pershyi. It’s unclear if they are seeing much pushback from Russia along this route, but the goal is clearly to connect this bridgehead with the one 15 kilometers south at Kupyansk. 

That Kupyansk bridgehead as been the scene of some very serious fighting. Russia resisted this crossing heavily, and brought in reinforcements even as Ukraine was getting set up on the east side of the river and preparing to move. Ukrainian sources in this area are still citing operational security and giving only scant reports of activities in the area, but it’s clear there were a pair of large battles, one in the southeastern area of Kupyansk-Vuzlovyi (the location of an absolutely enormous rail yard) and another to the east at Petropavlivka. Russia apparently suffered some very major losses of troops in these fights, and this is another area where Russian forces were reportedly rushed to the front in infantry waves without having adequate support from armor or air. That Ukraine now controls these areas is made pretty certain by the fact that both locations have shown up in the morning list of areas shelled by Russia for the last two days.

As with the bridgehead at Dvorichna, the Kupyansk force is now reported to be moving south, in this case toward Kivsharivka, also known as the town that for nearly a week kept saying there were no Russian troops present. Whether Russia got any forces into place before Ukrainian forces arrived isn’t clear. At a pre-war population of 20,000, Kivsharivka is about the same size as Lyman, and it seems to have so far made it through the war with a lot less damage. Here’s hoping that continues today.

One other thing is interesting about the Ukrainian advance from Kupyansk: the P07 highway. If Ukraine is also continuing down the P07 to the southeast, there’s pretty much nothing in the way until they get to the area of Kyslivka, and even that’s far enough off the road that it could potentially be bypassed. There are no real indications that Ukraine is about to do a speed run down the P07 … except that this is the same road that Ukraine used on its three-day crossing from Balakliya to Kupyansk. And 50 km down that same highway is Svatove, which is now reportedly Russia’s major mustering point in the region.

So, the forces that have crossed at Dvorichna and Kupyansk could meet up and continue to push south, clearing the area along the river. Or they could each continue to expand their bridgeheads, liberating northeastern Kharkiv. Or they could mount up and fly down the P07 into Luhansk … and Russia has to be prepared to defend any of these options.

There are a lot of good things to notice on this map.

Over the last two days, Ukraine has continued to expand the liberated area north of Lyman. That includes both pressing up the highway directly east of the Oskil River and widening the liberated area to the north. But the most important thing that’s happened may have been reported in just the last hour—so recently in fact that I’ve just had to remake this map and redo several paragraphs of text.

On Sunday and Monday, Russia apparently reinforced positions in Lyman and pushed back into Drobysheve with some regular Russian army forces to back the mercenary group that had been holding the northern edge of that town. While Ukraine apparently did eventually move Russian forces out of Novoselivka (locals there report that Ukraine has set up checkpoints and is checking IDs in the town), Russia actually seemed to control more of Lyman than it did over the weekend.

In spite of Ukrainian forces fighting between Nove and Zelena Dolyna and the capture of major rail lines in the area, Russia still had one good highway running from Kreminna straight into Lyman on the east. That well-paved road has allowed them to keep Lyman supplied, and to move in new forces.

I had actually spent a good chunk of the morning looking at the territory between Zelena Dolyna and Torske, writing several paragraphs about what Ukraine would need to do to press down to this point from the north and west, cut off the road into Lyman, and actually encircle the Russian forces.

And then Ukraine built a new pair of pontoon bridges across the Siverskyi Donets River at Bilohorivka, rushed a new force over the river, and now has scouting forces near both Torske and Kreminna, all under what appears to have been perfect operational security. So thanks for ruining my article, Ukrainian Army!

Honestly, I’ve never been happier to get out the editing pen and start slicing. If reports from both Ukrainian and Russian sources are correct, we’re not going to be waiting days or weeks for that last road into Lyman to be cut. That road is cut right now. Russian forces have reportedly abandoned the forested area east of Torske and Yampil. 

Lyman isn’t fully encircled, but considering the way Mud Season has moved into the area and reports that Ukrainian forces have managed to begin attacks on Stavky, there seems to be very little opportunity for Russian forces in this area to escape. Unless Russia can get to the area with enough strength to relieve pressure on that eastern road, the forces they just pushed into Lyman, Yampil, and Drobysheve are effectively encircled.

That is, of course, assuming that these reports of a significant Ukrainian force crossing the river and reaching Torske are correct. Let’s hope they’re correct. 

In the meantime, over on the northwest corner of this map, there are reports that Ukraine has liberated Nyzhche, and that Ukrainian troops have entered the southern half of Borova. Russia has reportedly been preparing a new defensive line running roughly along that red line from Borova to Serhiivka, but if that line is about to be flanked, any preparations made there could be worthless.


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