ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, 13 May – TTG

The Russian military has likely decided to withdraw fully from its positions around Kharkiv City in the face of Ukrainian counteroffensives and the limited availability of reinforcements. Russian units have generally not attempted to hold ground against counterattacking Ukrainian forces over the past several days, with a few exceptions. Reports from Western officials and a video from an officer of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) indicate that Moscow is focused on conducting an orderly withdrawal and prioritizing getting Russians back home before allowing proxy forces to enter Russia rather than trying to hold its positions near the city.

Ukraine thus appears to have won the Battle of Kharkiv. Ukrainian forces prevented Russian troops from encircling, let alone seizing Kharkiv, and then expelled them from around the city, as they did to Russian forces attempting to seize Kyiv. Ukrainian forces will likely attempt to disrupt at least the westernmost of the ground lines of communication (GLOCs) between Belgorod and Russian forces concentrated around Izyum, although Russia is using several GLOCs, including some further away from current Ukrainian positions than any Ukrainian counteroffensive is likely to reach soon. The terrain east of current Ukrainian positions may also favor the Russians attempting to defend their GLOCs, as large water features canalize movement and create chokepoints that the Ukrainians would have to breakthrough.

Russian troops continued efforts to advance all along the periphery of the Izyum-Donetsk city salient but made little progress. Russian forces attempted a ground offensive from Izyum that made no progress. We had previously hypothesized that Russia might give up on attempts to advance from Izyum, but the Russians have either not made such a decision or have not fully committed to it yet. Small-scale and unsuccessful attacks on the southern end of the salient near Donetsk City continued but made no real progress.

The main Russian effort continues to be the attempt to encircle Severodonetsk and Lysychansk from the north and from the south. Russian troops attacking from Popasna to the north made no significant progress in the last 24 hours. Russian forces coming north-to-south have failed to cross the Siverskyi Donets River and taken devastating losses in their attempts. The Russians may not have enough additional fresh combat power to offset those losses and continue the offensive on a large enough scale to complete the encirclement, although they will likely continue to try to do so.

The Ukrainian defenders of Mariupol continue to fight despite the odds, although Russian attackers appear to have penetrated into the Azovstal facility.

Comment: With well over a hundred heavy artillery tubes being added to the Ukrainian inventory, this is going to be a Summer long slugfest. I think the Russians are going to receive the worst of it.


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26 Responses to ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, 13 May – TTG

  1. Philip Owen says:

    If iti is a slugfest, trenchfoot arrives. Maybe typhus. How good is Russian hygeine practice in summer trench warfare in a swamp? The Ukrainians have 8 years of practice.

    • joe90 says:

      This is not 1916, this is 2022.

      • joe90 says:

        I might as well add, they got trained by NATO, those who lost in Afganistán.

      • Philip Owen says:

        After a report by the Chief Medical Officer. The British Army switched from footwraps to socks to counter trenchfoot in 1916. The Russian army announced its intention to make the switch in 2016. It is not clear (corruption enters into this) that this had been done. I’ve even been asked to supply boots to Russian forces of some kink “like the British wore in the Falklands”. The British had trenchfoot in the Falklands but their boots were still considered the best for dealing with it.

        I am not military but I have had professional experience working for a client that wanted to sell a wide range of non lethal equipment to the Russian military, including drones, boots, ration packs, uniforms, camping gear etc. These things have an impact. I’ve worked on other stuff. Remote sensing, terahertz radar (see through a wall in a hostage situation), battlefield data compression, cockpit displays, laser sights & weapons and a whole bunch of other stuff with British, Canadian, US and Russian partners. I was for a few years a relatively succesful innovation consultant and many of my projects were finding civilian applications for military and space technology.

        I would observe with respect to this war, that Russia has far fewer available sites for downloading remote sensing data that the US/Canada or ESA.

        • TTG says:

          Philip Owen,

          Just before the Falklands War, we were about to test the first iteration of our new winter wear in 10th Group. Our group commander, who did an exchange tour with the Parachute Regiment, offered our first batch to the Brits. It was enough Gortex, polypropylene and our new Gortex/Thinsulate boots for our entire Group. The 22 SAS commander told us, that kit saved a lot of lives. I still have those Gortex/Thinsulate boots. They look like jungle boots with soles that fit our skis. Surprisingly warm with the polypropylene socks. They were brown because there was a rumor the Army was soon going to brown boots. It didn’t. They drove the Fort Devins Commander nuts. He never liked SF.

          What our Army currently uses for winter wear was fully developed by 10th Group in a special program where senior NCOs worked directly with commercial companies to develop what we needed.

          • James says:

            I bought my first pair of Ecco shoes with Goretex 22 years ago and I am on my third pair. Worn them in +35C in the Kalahari to -15C in Moscow – and they have been super comfortable everywhere in all conditions. Damn I love them.

          • Philip Owen says:

            Great comment. It looks like the Ukrainians are using brown Goretex boots as standard. It’s good when new but wears out fast. Needs to be funded.

  2. James says:

    I find Southfront to be the most credible of the pro-Russian sources:

    And I am watching Southfront on which is by far the best competitor to Youtube that I have seen anywhere. It works well – and it open-source built on a peer-to-peer architecture which means it will be quite hard to shut down. I found the watching Southfront videos on the website to be flaky as heck.

  3. Al says:

    Interesting videos here:

    Snake Island: The tiny speck of land playing an outsized role in Russia’s war on Ukraine

    A meandering river in eastern Ukraine is hindering both sides in the war

    • joe90 says:

      Snake Island has no strategic importance, look at it using Google maps. CNN is worse than a bad joke.

      • Leith says:

        joe90 –

        When the guided missile cruiser Moskva went to the Davey Jines Locker, the Russians had no anti-air SAMs in the NW area of the Black Sea. So they view that putting SAMs on Snake Island does have some importance in any future attempts against Odessa. The SAM systems in Crimea may not have the range. The Ukrainians realize that also. Holding Snake Island may not be a strategic game-changer, but it is NOT a bad joke.

  4. joe90 says:

    Well it is BS
    1 The people need to be trained
    2 The art needs to get to were it is useful
    3 Ammo
    4 CBR, Russians have that at the regimental level so 2 shots before you need to move or you die
    5 All else being equal if you are 5 to 1, then you sufferer 25 to 1

    But OK lets see how long the slaughter goes before we agree that this war is not a war.

    • joe90 says:

      I might as well add what Stalin´s said “artillery is the god of war” in WW1 it accounted for about 60% of deaths, in WW2 about 67%, it has never gone less than that for any semi equal war. Artillery killed more tanks in the battel of Kursk than tanks, you know the greatest tank battle in history!

      The maths of artillery is brutally honest. Range, numbers and shots per unit of time. All else being equal it comes down to who can shoot more per unit of time. That is why the Russians have deliberately gone after the Ukraine artillery. In video game terms they did a zerg rush.

      And if you have ever done a zerg rush, you know if your on the wrong side, you die. I know PL dose not want me to say this but the truth is the Ukrainians lost the war the moment they decided to hunker down and let the Russians have 5-1 artillery in every battle, they lost because of their strategy. Which means they lost before the war even started, all we are seeing now is the killing.

      Of course there are other things as well. Simple numbers do matter, but they will lose because they didn´t get to fight the war they wanted to. As always proving war is a democracy and the enemy always gets a vote.

      • Pat Lang says:

        Say what you pls. an obvious Russian bot.

      • TTG says:


        Ukrainian and Russian tank and mechanized units are both organized along similar artillery heavy lines with the same kind of artillery and MRLS pieces. Each brigade has an artillery group of three to four artillery battalions. That’s true for active and reserve units. The Territorial Defense Force (TDF) is different, being locally organized light infantry units as a general rule. The only way Russians can have a 5-1 artillery advantage is if they are facing purely TDF. Not likely anywhere it counts.

      • Stadist says:


        Can you give an estimate how long I need to wait more for Russia to start winning? It’s getting boring waiting, russophiles have promised this to happen so many times.

  5. Some words of wisdom:

    A wise statesman such as Kennedy (35) or Nixon (37)
    would give Putin a path of face-saving retreat,
    through some negotiated settlement that met some, if not all, of
    Putin’s relatively modest pre-war demands
    However, our leaders are neither wise nor statesmen.
    Not only are they effectively refusing to negotiate —
    still demanding the Crimea! —
    they now accuse Putin of war crimes and assert that
    they will prosecute him if they win.
    They appear to be leaving Putin the choice between
    (1) national and personal humiliation and possible harassment and jail time (remember Saddam Hussein anyone?) and
    (2) nuclear war.

    He may well just choose Monty Hall’s door number (2) and “let ‘er rip.”
    Personally, at least, what does he have to lose?

    Note: The article of which the above is the conclusion
    contains a quite detailed presentation of what the author views as
    Russia’s alternatives for cutting the supply lines into Ukraine from the West.
    He also quotes from ISW reports, noting their neocon provenance.

  6. joe90 says:

    Its not about the land it is about the enemy, once they are dead you can take all the land.

  7. joe90 says:

    ´The Ukrainian defenders of Mariupol continue to fight despite the odds, although Russian attackers appear to have penetrated into the Azovstal facility.´

    Dies anyone understand what this really mean? This is true if there are 2 people left! There were around 14,000 to start with.

  8. KMD says:

    The side that is winning usually doesn’t ask for a time-out.

    This Special Military Operation will be over before summer ends.

    • English Outsider says:

      Not only LLoyd Austin. Scholz has also been asking for a ceasefire. Macron too, although that might be more to do with what’s happening in Azovstal.

      The view earlier was that sanctions would bring Russia to its knees. They don’t seem to have and that has entirely scuppered earlier Western hopes.

      A recent article in the English “Economist” , a consistently anti-Putin publication, shows that the failure of sanctions is now starting to be accepted even by the hard liners here. With the impending military defeats in Ukraine now staring us in the face there are no more shots in the locker.

      Washington/Brussels urgently need an off-ramp. In the earlier stages of the Ukrainian war, during the battle of Debaltseve, the Russians were willing to provide one. But things hadn’t gone as far then as they have now and it’s possible the Russians are no longer prepared to be as accommodating.

      There’s still an outside chance of a face saving solution for Biden and the Europeans. It’d be difficult because the European public has fully bought in to the story, so much so that the politicians can’t draw back without looking foolish.

      Has the American public bought in to that extent? From the little one sees the Americans, outside the Beltway, don’t have the universal commitment to Kiev that we do here. There is possibly an off-ramp for Biden. Were he prepared to negotiate he could fudge something up that would look good for the midterms.

      Not so the Europeans. Scholz in particular has no room for manoeuvre. The CDU/CSU is hard line, as are the Greens. His efforts, and they’re fairly limp efforts, are directed more to trying to make the sanctions a little less suicidal that to getting an overall settlement. He’s therefore in an impossible position. Even were the Russians prepared to throw him a lifeline there may not be one to throw.

      • Leith says:

        EO –

        Austin’s offer of a ceasefire was also about allowing an evacuation of the defenders of Azovstal. That offer was done with the agreement of Ukrainians and blessed by Zelensky.

        I’m wondering though why it was offered to Shoigu. The Russian Defence Minister was recently accused by the outspoken Strelkov of criminal negligence. Strelkov stopped short of accusing Shoigu of treasonous behavior, but did say he was suspicious of treachery.

        • English Outsider says:

          Leith -back in 2014/2105 I saw Strelkov – this “quiet and eccentric fanatic” as I’ve seen him described – as a man with a mission. That mission being to leverage Putin’s support for the “near abroad” Russians in the Donbas to get support for complete takeover of the Ukraine.

          The justification for this mission being Strelkov’s belief, shared to my knowledge by many other Russian ultra-nationalists, that the Ukraine is full of people who, could they be but liberated, were just waiting to be reunited with the Motherland.

          You’ll have been following TTG’s take on this as have I. That is, if I’m summarising it right, that Strelkov’s view is rubbish.

          So it is, my belief. I’m confirmed in this belief by such as Ishchenko. Ishchenko’s difficult to follow and I don’t know how sound he is in general, but he gave an interview not long ago in which he outlined the true state of affairs back then. The pro- or ethnic Russians in most of the Ukraine didn’t have the numbers or the conviction to justify a complete takeover of the whole of the Ukraine. And that Moscow knew.

          That’s why, my guess, Strelkov was not assisted in his bid to keep Slaviansk and certainly why neither he nor any other of the Hurrah Patriots of that time weren’t supported with “On to Kiev!”, as the cry was then.

          Maybe it’s different now. There’s been a lot of population movement and seven years of the Kiev regime might have changed or hardened opinions. But I still hold to my view that Putin doesn’t want the whole of the Ukraine by a long chalk, and that he’d be buying trouble if he took it.

          That belief was expressed forcefully by Patrick Armstrong in what I think was his last article. If it’s correct then in Strelkov we have one very unhappy ultra-nationalist. And one seeing his chance to push Moscow further than Moscow intends or wants to go. Just how I see Strelkov.

          • Leith says:

            EO –

            How I see Strelkov, or how you see him, is immaterial. He seems to be getting traction in Russian circles. He gets away with it because he does not attack Putin directly. Instead he goes after Putin’s advisors. That’s a good strategy. It was used more than a century ago to eventually bring down Imperial Russia by attacking the ‘evil councilors’ of the Tsar.

  9. One of the more interesting developments I’ve seen recently, is this article on Naked Capitalism;
    Where many of the Latin American countries, led by Mexico and Brazil, are threatening to boycott the Summit of the Americas, in Los Angles, in June, because the administration didn’t invite the Cuban, Venezuelan and Nicaraguan governments.
    How are the Europeans going to feel, when they are bending over to accommodate US desires, then have the rest of the Americas tell the US to take a hike?
    It’s going to be a long, hot summer.

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