From Jamie Peipon: Big news out of Ukraine over these past two days as fresh reports about battles and troop progress have been coming in over the past 12 hours at a pace unrivaled since the early days of the war. The map above is of eastern Ukraine. The red is Russian-occupied area. The north-eastern section is Russia, and the rest is Ukraine. The blue area was occupied territory at one point, but has been taken back since by Ukraine. The reason this map is a big deal is because of that big blue bulge you see in the middle. It didn’t exist a day and a half ago. Over the past two days, Ukraine’s armed forces have burst through Russian front lines all the way to the city of Kupiansk. This is an extremely strategic location as it is a major crossroads, a major railway hub, and the eastern front is largely supplied through this area.
The Russian city of Belgorod is at the very top of the map. I’ve written about it previously as Ukraine has successfully hit some weapons depots there (although they haven’t officially taken responsibility) and it is the main city from which support is sent to the eastern front. As you can see, the city of Izium, which is another strategically important city, has been cut off by this attack. In fact, I pulled that map when I began writing this post earlier this afternoon, and it is already outdated. The Ukrainian armed forces have not only penetrated through the initial lines of defense, they also appeared to have expanded the breach further southwards. There are already reports about heavy fighting in the Izium area and Ukraine is already pressing in to the city from the south. To the west, Russians in Izium are trapped by a river. It seems highly likely that the Russians have not only been cut off from their supplies but are close to being surrounded and will likely be forced to surrender. In fact, there have already been plenty of videos of Russians surrendering showing up on social media channels. One Ukrainian official has said that today they are likely to surpass their capacity for POWs. There have also been plenty of videos of empty Russian camps with food still on the stoves. The ones that left, left in a hurry.
The pace with which Ukrainian forces are moving seems only to be outmatched by the pace with which Russian lines seem to be collapsing. That is happening much faster than anyone anticipated. There is something of a danger of overextending at this point.
The strategy has been fascinating. I wrote previously that when this attack started, many said that it appeared to be a strike of opportunity which was done because the probability of success for the attack seemed high. With the number of forces pushed through, it seems far more likely that this was coordinated with what has been going on in the south. It seems that Ukraine had basically been broadcasting their plans to counterattack in the south for weeks knowing full well that they had a great number of soldiers and equipment on the northeastern front. These constant reports about the coming counteroffensive caused Russia to move a significant number of troops to the south. Ukraine launched that southern offensive using a slower, artillery-based attack and was preaching patience the whole time. Now, they’ve burst through lines in the north with what seems to be armor/mechanized forces. Thus far, it is a thing of beauty.
Meanwhile in Russia, a group of lawmakers in St. Petersburg dared to ask the State Duma (Russian parliament) to censure Putin over this war. Of course, this is a significant and public challenge to the presidency. But those dissenters have already been brought up on criminal charges for the crime of “discrediting the Russian army.”
Another major news item out of Europe came through today. As of September 19th, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland are closing their borders to Russian citizens, even those who have visas issued by other countries in the EU. In order to travel outside of Russia, Russians currently have to cross the border by land (or fly to one of the few countries to the south and east that will receive a Russian plane) and then fly from an airport there further into Europe. If you look at a map, you can see that the four countries mentioned above, plus Ukraine, make up the entire European border with Russia. The only remaining option is to go north through Finland which may also decide to join this movement when they see a significant influx of Russians heading their direction.
All in all, this has been the biggest day of the counteroffensive to date. Here’s to more news like this in the days to come.
“Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
for there is a future for the man of peace.
But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
the future of the wicked shall be cut off.”