A Blog by Jonathan Low


Dec 10, 2022

Ukrainians Poised To Outflank Kreminna As Bakhmut Remains Russian Deathtrap

Ukrainian forces are making slow, incremental progress around Kreminna and Svatove, keeping the pressure on depleted Russian units. 

In Bakhmut, Ukraine appears to be employing the same tactic it did over the summer in Severodonetsk and Lysichansk; putting up just enough resistance so that it becomes a killing ground for Russian troops but without wasting too many scarce resources of its own. JL 

Mark Sumner reports in Daily Kos:

Around Kreminna, Ukraine continues to move along the P66 highway while Ukrainian troops continue the attempt to clear Russian troops. The forces hitting from the north have been joined by additional Ukrainian forces on the west. Ukraine could be very close to severing supply lines both north and south of Kreminna. Bakhmut is divided by the Bakhmutka River, beyond which the terrain rises. So even if Russia is able to force Ukraine from long-held positions in the eastern part of the city, it’s unlikely the remainder of Bakhmut would fall.


If the areas around Kreminna and Svatove appear to be confusing and slow, one area where Ukraine continues to make progress is up there in that remaining sliver of Kharkiv oblast that’s still under Russian occupation.

Kupyansk Area. Open in another tab for a larger view.

Ukraine has been gradually pushing Russia out of this area without making any big announcements. It’s not until the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense casually mentions Ukrainian forces in one of these positions, or notes them in the list of places that are being regularly shelled by Russia, that the change of hands becomes clear. There appear to be several small forces operating in this area, pressing in different directions. One has been working north over the past few days from the river crossing at Dvorichna. Another has been working further east, near Kyslivka. 

On Wednesday, there were some reports on Telegram that Ukraine had liberated Vilshana, but there is yet to be any confirmation of this. However, in the last two days it seems that Ukraine has liberated Pershotravneve. There’s no news on the Mykolaivka in the same little area, but this may simply be because Russia failed to toss any shells at this village of fewer than a dozen houses.

For the most part, there aren’t any great passages to the east in this area, so taking these villages seems more about keeping any pressure off Ukrainian forces moving down the P07 than opening up another route to Svatove and points east. However, there is a road east from Tavilzhanka that runs past Velykyi Vyselok and eventually reaches all the way to the P66. No idea what kind of condition that road is in, or how many of the villages along that route have any complement of Russian military.

Be looking for any confirmed status change at Vilshana or anything at Velykyi Vyselok, which could confirm Ukrainian movements in this area.

Further south, I’ve marked a Ukrainian assault near Kolomyichykha in which at least one Russian vehicle was destroyed. Russia doesn’t have a lot of area remaining west of the highway. Ukraine may be cleaning out these remaining pockets before making a more serious move on Svatove.

UPDATE: Friday, Dec 9, 2022 · 11:25:05 AM EST · Mark Sumner

An update on the situation around Kreminna, where it seems there are multiple areas of active fighting. First, north of the city, Ukraine continues to move along the P66 highway. Chervonopopivka is reported as “secure” while Ukrainian troops continue the attempt to clear Russian forces at Holykove and to liberate all of Zhytlivka. Reportedly the forces hitting Zhytlivka from the north have been joined by additional Ukrainian forces on the west.

Kreminna Area. Open in another tab for a larger view.

West of the city, there were reports on Thursday of another attempt by Russian forces to break through Ukrainian lines here with the intent of “taking back Lyman.” However, there doesn’t appear to be any real sign that this was successful in any way, or that it actually happened. I’ve extended the area of “in dispute” here to include Dibrova not because Russia made any kind of advance, but because I’m trying to resolve differing reports on the status of the town.

Similarly, Russian propaganda sites on Thursday reported that Russia had cleared Ukrainian forces from sites in the woods south of Kreminna. On Friday morning this report also appears to be false, as Ukrainian sources still indicate troops are still within 2km of the city.

However, by far the biggest report of the morning is that a small group of Ukrainian soldiers, accompanied by a handful of armored vehicles, has reportedly crossed the river from Bilohorivka and moved against the Russian line at Pryvillya. Whether this attack has had any success is not known at this point, but if Ukraine could take this position they would be very close to severing supply lines both north and south of Kreminna and would be extremely close to Rubiznhe. Overnight, Ukrainian forces reportedly shelled Russian locations in Rubiznhe, so the highway on this side of Kreminna is already likely under fire control. 

Speaking of explosions deep in Russian-occupied territory, there are reports on Friday of additional explosions at Berdyansk airport. This follows a series of such explosions on Thursday and comes close on the heels of multiple airports in Russia being hit by Ukrainian drones.

No word yet on any potential damage. I’m looking for recent high-resolution satellite images in the area to get a better idea of what’s been positioned there, but Berdyansk is one of the locations that had been connected to drone and aircraft-carried missile attacks on Ukrainian cities and infrastructure.

Over the last day, the situation in Bakhmut has gotten much more tense. While hearing that Russia has taken the city dump and this or that factory may seem laughable—and is, considering how many times they’ve taken and lost the same sites before—forces on the ground indicate that this time is different. Russian forces appear to have secured defensive positions along the edge of Bakhmut that they were only able to occupy briefly in the past. Ukrainian forces are being pressed back from the places where they’ve been able to hold out and direct fire over several months, and there is real concern that the long-held status quo is about to break. Earlier this week, kos took a close look at Bakhmut and pointed out something that most new analysis seems to miss: The city is divided by the Bakhmutka River, beyond which the terrain rises. So even if Russia is able to force Ukraine from long-held positions in the eastern part of the city, it’s highly unlikely that the remainder of Bakhmut would fall rapidly, or at all. Ukraine should be able to reposition west of the river and force Russia to do everything all over again to capture the next few blocks.

What seems to have changed in the last week mostly comes down to a mistake on Ukraine’s part. There is a good deal of dispute about the videos seen in the last few days about an attempted advance from the city, but it seems that Ukraine not only failed in an attempt to press Russian forces back, but did so in a way that left them vulnerable to a counter. In the parry-riposte that has taken place east of Bakhmut for so long, Ukraine may have made a big swing and a miss. If that’s accurate, now they’re taking a big hit in return.

However, don’t think that all this means Ukraine is likely to begin pulling out of the eastern blocks anytime soon. This is still moving on Bakhmut time. 

What’s likely to happen now is that Wagner will move their HQ to the city garbage dump and attempt to advance from that position. In the meantime … their HQ will be in the city garbage dump. Too bad the weather isn’t warmer.

Speaking of attempted Ukrainian advances along the eastern border, it was only yesterday that Russian propagandists were showing videos of Ukrainian vehicles moving out of what was supposed to be Pervomaisk and getting trapped behind a minefield and taking casualties in what was reportedly a repelled attack toward the fully Russian-held town of Pisky.

Turns out the videos were actually from further north. They really showed vehicles moving between Vodyane and Opytne. These areas are close together, so close that I had to zoom way in to show the locations on the map.

Donetsk Area. Open in another tab for a larger view.

What difference does it make? The difference is that Ukraine seems to have made a successful move toward Pisky. Ukraine currently controls a portion of the town, all of which is now in dispute. That attempted advance in the video still seems to have failed, but instead of representing Russia capturing new territory, it took place in an area where things didn’t change—while the real change was that Russia appears to have lost part of Pisky.



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