Ukraine Situation Report: Kyiv Claims Massive Russian Buildup Near Kharkiv

Ukrainian military leaders say they are increasingly concerned about a potential Russian push through Kharkiv Oblast that could imperil its own counteroffensive.

“In the Lyman and Kupiansk direction, the enemy has concentrated a very powerful force – more than 100,000 personnel, more than 900 tanks, more than 555 artillery systems, 370 self-propelled guns,” Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the Eastern Grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said during the nightly official newscast, the official state Ukrinform news agency reported Monday.

By comparison, Cherevatyi noted, “the largest number of Soviet troops in Afghanistan was 120,000.” 

The 100,000 troop number is bewilderingly large. While we cannot confirm it, even a significant portion of that figure would be highly concerning.

The Russians “are concentrating everything in order to break through our defenses” the spokesman said. “Our soldiers are on the defensive. They don’t allow the enemy to finally seize the initiative. That’s why they hit them constantly.”

“The operational situation in the Eastern direction remains difficult,” Commander of the Ground Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi, said Monday, according to the Military Media Center Telegram channel. “In order to stop the offensive actions of our troops in the area of ​​Bakhmut, the enemy is actively transferring additional forces and means to this direction, [including some] airborne troops.”

At the same time, Russian forces “went on the offensive in the Kupiansk direction” with the goal “of defeating our troops in the Kupiansk area and continuing the offensive in the depth of our battle formations,” Syrskyi said.

The Russians are “searching for weak points in our defense, actively conducting assaults in the areas of the settlements of Masyutivka [and] Novoselivske with the aim of pushing our units beyond the barrier line of the Oskil River,” Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Monday on her Telegram channel.

The Russians, she said, have two tasks. Recovering territory they lost and forcing Ukraine to “transfer reserves there from other directions.”

Ukrainian troops “are on the defensive, putting up strong resistance,” said Maliar. “The situation is complicated. Hot battles are going on now.”

Kupiansk is about 60 miles southeast of Kharkiv city and 50 miles north of Lyman in Donetsk Oblast. Ukraine says Russia has amassed a force of about 100,000 troops in this area. (Google Earth image)

Ukraine is making progress elsewhere, said Maliar, including on the southern flank around Bakhmut, where Kyiv’s troops have freed more than 31 square kilometers since the counteroffensive began more than a month ago.

Overall, Ukraine has freed more than 210 square kilometers in its counteroffensive so far, said Maliar, including about 18 square kilometers in the south and east this week.

It is exactly this kind of progress Russia would be intent on stopping by attempting to force Ukraine to rebalance its resources. It would also be used to drain Ukraine’s reserve forces they are saving for a larger push.

The Russians, meanwhile say they are inflicting heavy losses in Ukraine across several axis.

Around Kupiansk, “as a result of active action by aviation, artillery and heavy flamethrower systems of the Zapad Group of Forces, [Ukrainian]  units have been hit close to Novosyolovskoye and Stelmakhovka (Luhansk Oblast) and Sinkovka and Ivanovka (Kharkiv Oblast).

It is unclear at the moment just how much combat power Russia can both mass and sustain in the east as Ukraine continues to make incremental progress in its counteroffensive. But a real Russian breakthrough back through Kharkiv Oblast could derail Kyiv’s plans.

We will keep an eye on this situation and update this story when warranted.

Before we head into the latest from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

The ZALA Aero Group – part of the Kalashnikov company –  said it is finalizing development of the next generation of Lancet 3 suicide drones, according to Aviacionline.

The new drone, known as the  “Izdeliye-53,” offers several improvements over the Lancet, the Zala Aero Group claimed.

The Izdeliye-53 “comes encased in a sealed tube, which is used for storage, transport and from which it is launched,” the company claimed, according to Aviaconline. “This represents a substantial advantage over the current Lancet launch system, which must first be assembled and then mounted on a pneumatic rail for launch.”

In addition, this “new generation of suicide drones will be the ability to form swarms of several units, capable of coordinated attacks on multiple targets on the battlefield,” the company claimed, according to Aviacionline.

“Many Izdeliye-53s will be able to be launched over the battlefield simultaneously, flying in ‘swarms’ and sweeping the territory with their optronic sensors,” ZALA said. “Once one of the loitering munitions locates a target, it communicates this to the rest of the swarm via a data link, before diving on it. This capability will allow each target to be attacked by a single drone, while the rest continue their exploration in search of more targets to destroy.”

It is unclear how far along this project really is and larges doses of skepticism are warranted here. The ability to effectively swarm drones on the battlefield would represent a great advantage and a leap compared to existing capabilities.

The U.S. military is also developing drone swarm technology. You can read more about that in our story here.

Kalashnikov, meanwhile, says it is producing hundreds of thousands of drones, so many that it claims chief designer Aleksandr Zaharov “has to use a Segway” to get around the factory.

A new image has emerged of a Russian FAB-500M-62 glide bomb being carried by an Su-24M Fencer combat jet. This 1,100-pound (500-kilogram) class general-purpose high-explosive bomb is fitted with one of Russia’s range-extending wing kits. You can read more about this weapon and its continuing implications in our story here.

The Ukrainian Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR) has posted an intense new video showing what it claims shows “Chechen fighters continue the fight against Russian invaders.”

This video does not say when or where the incident took place, however others posting it suggest it was filmed inside Belgorod, Russia (which you can read more about later). In it, you can see that the fighters execute a violent and swift ambush on Russian trucks moving along a road.

It is claimed a longer version of this video shows the Chechens inside Russia’s Belgorod Oblast, lead by Abdul Hakim al-Shishani, a Chechen commander.

Belgorod is also where self-proclaimed anti-Putin partisans have been staging attacks.

An up-armored Leopard 2A4 main battle tank, featuring additional protection like added Kontakt-1 explosive reactive armor (ERA), rubber mats and full camouflage netting, was recently spotted in service with Ukraine. You can read our previous report on Soviet-designed ERA being applied to Western Leopard tanks in Ukraine here.

Another high-ranking Russian officer was reportedly killed in Ukraine. Marine Col. Gorin Alexander Vladimirovich was said to have been killed near Tokamak in Zaporizhzhia Oblast on July 14.

And finally, move over infamous trench beaver wherever you are, there’s a new combat critter hanging with Ukrainian forces. Meet courageous trench cat.

That’s it for now. We’ll update this story when there’s more news to report about Ukraine.

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Howard Altman Avatar

Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard’s work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.