Support Us

Ukrainian Armed Forces continue to mount counteroffensive in Kharkiv Oblast: Information to date

Saturday, 10 September 2022, 00:35
Collage: Andrii Kalistratenko

News from Kharkiv Oblast – which has not seen significant developments on the frontline since May – have filled newsfeeds and social media in the last few days. The Ukrainian army has unexpectedly begun to mount a decisive counteroffensive.

Balakliia, a city of 27,000 residents which was occupied by Russian forces six months ago and has remained under Russian occupation since, became the centre of attention. It was the first city [in Kharkiv Oblast - ed.] whose liberation was confirmed by the Armed Forces of Ukraine and by Ukraine’s president.

Though President Zelenskyy announced that over 30 towns and villages in Kharkiv Oblast have been liberated, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine continues to maintain operational secrecy and has not disclosed their names.

Meanwhile, researchers from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a United States-based think tank, compare the scale of Russia’s defeat in Kharkiv Oblast with their unsuccessful crossing of the Siverskyi Donets River in Bilohorivka, Luhansk Oblast.

Ukrainska Pravda hereby offers a short summary of the available facts about the Ukrainian army’s counteroffensive in Kharkiv Oblast as of the night of 9 September.

Areas that have been liberated by the Ukrainian army

In the course of the last three days, the Ukrainian army has advanced by almost 50 kilometres in Kharkiv Oblast, liberating over 30 towns and villages along the way. Among them, the city of Balakliia and the village of Volokhiv Yar.

The Kraken Special Unit [a special forces unit of the Ukrainian Military Intelligence that is directly under the command of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence and is outside the military chain of command of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine - ed.] raised the flag over the liberated city of Balakliia with the words: "Mr President, your order has been executed."

Videos of the Ukrainian flag being raised in two villages to the north of Balakliia -  Borshchivka and Ivanivka - have also been shared on social media.

According to Ukrainska Pravda’s sources in the Kharkiv Oblast Military-Civilian Administration, the Ukrainian army has advanced even further and is now controlling and defending the village of Shevchenkove and has regained control over several neighbourhoods in the city of Kupiansk, where the Ukrainian troops are now attempting to encircle the Russian occupying forces.

On 9 September, an image of the damaged bridge over the river Oskil in Kupiansk was being actively shared on Russian propaganda channels. The inability to use the bridge significantly reduces Russia’s ability to send reinforcements to its troops in Kupiansk.  

The red circle on the map indicates the Kupiansk Bridge

On 8 September, the ISW wrote that Ukrainian forces will likely capture Kupiansk in the next 72 hours, meaning that this could happen as early as on 10-11 September. Loss of control over Kupiansk will severely degrade Russian ground lines of communication with the city of Izium, in the southern part of Kharkiv Oblast.

Бійці 92-ї бригади з українським прапором у Куп'янську на Харківщині. Фото: соцмережі

The city of Kupiansk, with its 27,000 residents, is the backdrop to one of the most widely shared videos documenting the local residents’ rally against the Russian occupation during the first days of the war. In the video, a crowd of local residents bearing Ukrainian flags throw themselves at a moving vehicle emblazoned with the Russian Z and carrying Russian occupying forces.

This is the same city whose mayor betrayed Ukraine and agreed to collaborate with the occupiers; the same city whose unarmed residents chanted "Go away!" to Russian forces as they drove by in their military vehicles.

ISW’s map of the Kharkiv front
Unofficial map of the Kharkiv front from DeepState, a Ukrainian military analysis project


The counteroffensive in Kharkiv Oblast forms part of the larger offensive of the Ukrainian army on several fronts, including the Pivdennyi Buh front and, partially, the Sloviansk front.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive started in the beginning of September. As of 9 September, over 3,000 square kilometres that had been captured by Russia have been liberated, an area greater than that of the city of Kyiv.

This rapid offensive in Kharkiv Oblast came relatively unexpectedly, especially in comparison to the situation in southern Ukraine, where the Ukrainian counteroffensive began earlier this summer, as evidenced by frequent strikes on Russian ammunition storage points and strategic bridges. While President Zelenskyy has been talking about the southern counteroffensive for several months now, he has not said anything about the Kharkiv front until very recently.


Forces involved in re-establishing control over Kharkiv Oblast

According to publicly available sources, at least five units are known to be taking part in the counteroffensive on the Kharkiv front: the Kraken Special Unit of the Main Directorate of Intelligence; the Vovky Da Vinci (Da Vinci Wolves) 1st Separate Assault Company of the Right Sector Ukrainian Volunteer Corps; the 25th Separate Airborne Brigade; the 92nd Separate Mechanised Brigade; and the 80th Airborne Assault Brigade.

President Zelenskyy recently mentioned the heroic actions of the latter three brigades in his evening address.

It is worth noting that the military and political leadership might be deliberately withholding information about other units taking part in the counteroffensive [for their protection while operations are ongoing - ed.].

Ukrainska Pravda reports that Oleksandr Syrskyi, Commander of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, who was previously responsible for the defence of Kyiv, is now a key figure in the Kharkiv front counteroffensive.

Слухайте подкаст "Кляті питання": Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Soundcloud | Overcast | АБУК | НВ. Подкасти

"Nobody’s panicking"

In Russia, both the Kremlin (as represented by Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary of the President of Russia) and the Ministry of Defence (in its daily reports) have kept silent about the success of the Ukrainian counteroffensive on the Kharkiv front and the defeat of the Russian army there.

Meanwhile, Russian propaganda operatives, who on 6 September, when the Ukrainian army was already advancing on Balakliia, wrote that "nobody’s panicking", have now admitted that "there are worrying news from the Izium front for the third day in a row", that "there is heavy fighting on the Kharkiv front", and that "Balakliia has been a matter of disappointment".

The "evacuation" of local residents announced by the Russian occupying forces in Izium, Kupiansk and Velykyi Burluk also attests to the growing anxiety among the Russians. As part of the so-called "evacuation", Russian forces are planning to take Ukrainian citizens from those cities to the so-called "LPR" (self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic) and to Belgorod Oblast and Krasnodar Krai in Russia.

It was only on 9 September that RIA Novosti (RIA News), a Kremlin-aligned Russian propaganda news outlet, reported that Russia has deployed additional military equipment and personnel on the Kharkiv front, citing a video shared by the Russian Ministry of Defence.


What happens once a territory has been liberated

Dozens of photographs and videos from Balakliia, which had been under Russian occupation for six months, shared by Ukrainian soldiers, suggest that the residents of Kharkiv Oblast were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Ukrainian army.

One of the most moving moments showed locals offering the Ukrainian soldiers homemade pancakes, tears of joy in their eyes.

Local government officials have reported that Ukrainian authorities, police, and emergency services will resume working in the liberated territories of Kharkiv Oblast. One of their priorities will be to prepare cities and villages for winter.

On 9 September, Ukrainian police resumed working on the territories freed from Russian occupation. Local residents are encouraged to report the crimes committed by the Russian occupiers, to turn in collaborators and to share information about the positions of Russian forces.

The first collaborator – the head of one of the villages liberated in Kharkiv Oblast – was detained on the same day.


The counteroffensive by the Ukrainian army in Kharkiv and Kherson oblasts is Ukraine’s first significant victory since the spring operation which saw the liberation of Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy oblasts.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces now dominate the wide front that has been stretching from Kharkiv Oblast to Kherson Oblast for the past seven months, or at least a significant chunk of it.

It is obviously too early to celebrate victory (and it must be remembered that a counteroffensive involves more substantial losses than active defence).

However, as President Zelenskyy said in one of his addresses, "Ukrainian flags are returning to the places where they should be by right." There is no place for the occupiers on this land.

Olha Kyrylenko, Ukrainska Pravda