A Blog by Jonathan Low


Jun 6, 2024

Bolstered By US Ammunition, Ukraine Is Pushing Russians Back North of Kharkiv

A growing number of reports suggest that the attempted Russian offensive in northern Kharkiv oblast has been thwarted, thanks largely to artillery resupply from the west and to increasingly effective Ukrainian drone teams. 

Russian forces are digging trenches in an attempt to hold what little they have rather than going on the attack because their losses are so heavy. JL 

Thomas Newdick reports in The Drive Warzone:

There are increasing signs that Ukraine is successfully pushing back the Russian offensive in the Kharkiv region. There are accounts from Russia that things are not going to plan for Moscow. U.S.-supplied weapons in counter-fire within Russia's borders (are) having an effect already. Guided artillery are being used to target Russian units headed toward the Kharkiv region before they cross the border. “(Ukraine) does not lack shells anymore. They operate a wide range of FPVs. If we try to go further, we will lose a large number of people. It is preparing a serious counteroffensive in the Kharkiv direction.  How are things now? Frankly, they suck.”

There are increasing signs that Ukraine may be successfully pushing back the Russian offensive in the Kharkiv region, at least in some areas.

Speaking during a national telethon, Yurii Fedorenko, the commander of a drone company within the Ukrainian 92nd Mechanized Brigade, said that Ukraine’s position had begun to get better in the war-torn region.


“We are improving our position. Work is underway to knock the enemy out of occupied positions. In addition, to destroy its reserves, equipment, and other means with which it is trying to operate. In particular, on the territory of the Russian Federation,” Fedorenko said.

While statements of this kind from Ukrainian commanders are one thing, it’s telling that there are also accounts from the Russian side that things are not all going to plan in Moscow’s latest offensive.

In an interview, a Russian soldier captured in the north of the Kharkiv region describes his unit being reduced from 300 troops to just nine in the space of a few days. Based on his account, huge losses and confusion are the order of the day in some Russian units, at least.


The major decision by the United States to allow Ukraine to use U.S.-supplied weapons in counter-fire efforts within Russia's borders appears to be having an effect already. In particular, guided artillery rockets are being used to target Russian units headed toward the Kharkiv region before they even cross the border. According to the Ukrainian General Staff, Russian forces are now especially active near Lyptsi, close to the border with Russia. While there were recent reports that the Russian offensive might be losing momentum in this area, it now appears that operations have resumed again.

More details are coming to light of the significant shift in Washington’s policy on Ukraine that saw the decision made to allow Kyiv to use U.S.-supplied weapons to strike targets within Russian borders.


The potential loss of Kharkiv to Russian forces was a key factor in the turnaround, according to a story in Politico based on interviews with 18 senior U.S., Ukrainian, and European officials and lawmakers.

“If Russia were to take Kharkiv, it would have a significant opening to take over other crucial areas in eastern Ukraine,” the article summarizes. “It would also undermine Biden’s bet on Kyiv — one he’s propped up with billions of dollars worth of weapons and other aid. If there was one battle Biden could be convinced to say ‘yes’ rather than ‘no,’ it was Kharkiv.”

The same article reveals just how much work went into engineering this policy change, including months of behind-the-scenes planning just to get a proposal that President Joe Biden could look at.

Ultimately, however, the scope of the change is somewhat limited, argues security columnist Colby Badhwar, who notes that U.S.-supplied 155mm artillery ammunition was already being used by Ukraine to strike targets in Russia, apparently with tacit U.S. approval.

“The change in policy will potentially allow for a broader range of weapons to hit a broader range of targets, but still in an extremely limited capacity,” Badhwar notes.

Nevertheless, the effects of the policy change are apparently already being seen in the conflict.

Photos posted to social media claim to show the remnants of U.S.-supplied Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS) fired against targets in Russian territory by Ukraine. The fragments in question are said to have been found in the Belgorod region of Russia, which borders Ukraine. It can’t be confirmed whether or not the following photo also relates directly to Ukrainian attacks on Russian soil, but it shows expended launch pods of the kind used in HIMARS and MLRS, apparently in the Kharkiv region. The collection of 54 spent pods seen here would equate to a (maximum) total of 324 GMLRS rockets, although unguided rockets are also fired via the pods.

The U.S. policy shift has also led to other Ukrainian allies following suit.

The Netherlands, for example, has become the latest country to declare that it will allow the F-16 fighters that it’s supplying Kyiv to be used to strike “military targets” on Russian territory.


Ukrainian long-range strikes’ that aren’t quite as they seem are the subject of the next tweet. According to this, Russians accused Ukraine of hitting a market in the town of Shebekino in the Belgorod region. However, it now seems that the civilian casualties and damage to the market may have been caused by the unintended detonation of a Russian Iskander short-range ballistic missile, or at least due to the missile system being deployed there when Ukraine hit it.


There have been several recent indications that the mood in the Russian media may be turning, at least to some degree, as the Russian offensive in the Kharkiv region apparently runs into difficulties.

In particular, as pro-Kremlin military blogger Alexander Kots notes, the Ukrainian forces no longer suffer from such an acute shortage of artillery ammunition, which had been a serious issue just a few weeks ago.

“The enemy does not have a lack of shells anymore,” Kots writes. “They also operate a wide range of FPVs [first-person-view drones]. There is a gradual fortification at the reached borders, and we are slowly moving into active defense because if we try to go further, we will simply lose a large number of our people. And we see that judging by the behavior of the enemy, it is preparing a serious counteroffensive blow in the Kharkiv direction.”


While talk of a Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region is surely premature, it reflects the fact that the pro-Kremlin media is at least preparing its audience for more possible setbacks to come, rather than simply trumpeting Russian successes on the battlefield.

Also notable is the fact that Kots is not the only Russian analyst currently bringing attention to the particular threat posed by Ukrainian drones. Recent comments from Russia’s Project Archangel, a volunteer effort to get more drones into the hands of Russian soldiers, also paint a worrisome picture for the Kremlin’s force.


“How are things now? Frankly, they suck.”

Project Archangel identified drones as a key factor behind Ukrainian forces “slowing down and stopping our offensives in one area or another.”

The same source describes Ukrainian forces using three to four (presumably FPV-type) drones for each Russian soldier in an assault group when repelling an attack, with between six and 10 drones assigned to attack each Russian tank or armored fighting vehicle.

Project Archangel also laments the lack of electronic countermeasures available to the Russians to defeat Ukrainian drones, or even to pinpoint the frequencies on which they operate. This means that Russian soldiers frequently have to try and buy their own electronic warfare equipment.

Not surprisingly, much focus has been put on Ukraine expanding its long-range strikes using U.S.-supplied weapons into Russia proper. In the meantime, Ukrainian forces continue to pummel targets within Russian-controlled territory, including in the eastern Donetsk region.

A recent such strike by a Ukrainian High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) reportedly targeted the city of Soledar. The city itself has already been almost totally destroyed but seems to have been used as a base for a Russian mechanized brigade. Reports suggest the HIMARS strike destroyed a variety of Russian military vehicles and also led to the deaths of seven soldiers from a repair company, four from a tank company, and two members of the military police.

Meanwhile, Ukraine still eyes various prized targets in Russian-occupied Crimea, of which the strategic Kerch Bridge is one of the biggest and most valuable.

In response to the threat posed by strikes by Ukrainian uncrewed surface vessels and uncrewed underwater vessels, the Kerch Bridge is being offered increased protection, with larger and more numerous booms placed in the water around it. According to estimates, each section of the boom is now around 300 feet long. At the latest count, nine booms have been put in place. This is in addition to sunken barges and other obstacles that aim to protect the prized span.


We now have what is likely our best view of the new-generation LMUR anti-armor missile carried by a Russian Ka-52M Hokum attack helicopter. The missile is seen mounted on the starboard stub wing of the Ka-52M; it can also be carried by the Mi-28NM Havoc. You can read more about the missile in our previous in-depth coverage.

The limitations of U.S.-supplied M1A1 Abrams tanks in Ukrainian hands continue to be discussed.

In a recent interview with CNN, Ukrainian soldiers air their complaints about the tank, 31 of which have been supplied.Another crew member, Dnipro, described the Abrams as the “number one target” on the battlefield. “Without defense, the crew doesn’t survive on the battlefield,” he said.

While there have been recent reports suggesting that Ukraine has withdrawn these tanks from the front lines, officials from the 47th Mechanized Brigade who spoke to CNN indicate that all surviving Abrams are still deployed on the eastern front.

The Abrams might have been something of a disappointment to at least some of the crews operating it. But the same can be leveled at the hastily adapted ‘turtle tanks’ in use with Russia since around mid-April.

The video below is said to have been taken a few weeks ago during an assault in the Novomykhailivka area in the Donetsk region. The footage appears to show the turtle tanks being used as assault guns, firing ahead of them and proceeding in a straight line. As at least one Russian military blogger notes, this is far from the combination of mobility, speed, and firepower that one would expect from conventional tank warfare.

The result, somewhat predictably, was the failure of the assault.

Another Russian military blogger argues that the failure of the turtle tank can, to a large degree, be attributed to the arrival of new artillery ammunition, after U.S. and European defense aid packages for Ukraine were finally cleared.

The turtle tank — also known to the Russians as the ‘barnyard tank’ is somewhat protected against FPV drone strikes, the blogger opines, especially when it combines a protective carapace with an electronic warfare jammer. However, the same design is essentially defenseless against well-placed artillery strikes.

While turtle tanks continue to take hits on the battlefield, so too do other Russian vehicles, with especially unfortunate results for any infantry who might be using them for transport.


As we have explored before, the risks posed by anti-tank mines and other threats that might penetrate the hull armor means that Russian troops frequently ride into battle on top of armored vehicles. This is in addition to having to move more troops than the vehicles can host internally. The disadvantages of this approach are all too clear to see in the next video. If any troops were riding in this Ukrainian MaxxPro armored car, they certainly would have fared much better. Despite withering fire from the enemy, the MaxxPro is seen returning from the fight in one piece, reportedly somewhere near Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region.

Among the trademark anti-armor weapons used by Ukraine is the U.S.-made Javelin shoulder-launched missile.

While the effects of the missile have been well documented, much more unusual is the chance to see the shaped-charge warhead, including the conical copper part that ensures it can penetrate enemy armor.

The regular TWZ roundup of drone warfare in Ukraine follows next.

The first example, showing a successful Ukrainian drone strike, is especially interesting as it depicts a very modern Russian self-propelled artillery piece involved in the war. The 2S43 Malva is said to be from the 9th Artillery Brigade and was knocked out by a drone strike in the Belgorod region, within Russian borders.

More videos are beginning to emerge from the conflict showing air-to-air drone engagements.

This example purports to show a Ukrainian FPV drone targeting a Russian Orlan reconnaissance drone, in an incident said to be from several weeks ago. Videos such as this are certainly causing alarm among Russian military bloggers, with predictions that “a full-fledged anti-drone complex based on an FPV drone is only a matter of time.”

Another of the very many contenders for most expertly placed FPV drones in the next video. Here, the Ukrainian drone operator takes advantage of the opportunity presented by a small window to attack a group of Russian soldiers said to be sheltering upstairs. Next up, another piece of Russian self-propelled artillery falls victim to a Ukrainian FPV drone. This example is a 2S19 Msta-S self-propelled howitzer, which is attacked from behind, resulting in a catastrophic explosion.


Ground-based FPV kamikaze drones are likely to be seen in growing numbers going forward, but for the time being, UGVs are mainly being used for logistics work. This official Russian Ministry of Defense video shows a UGV being used to transport supplies. The drone is said to have a range of around 25 miles.


Post a Comment