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Russian troops concentrate forces in Sumy Oblast to stretch frontline – ISW

Tuesday, 21 May 2024, 05:09
Russian troops concentrate forces in Sumy Oblast to stretch frontline – ISW
Sumy Oblast. Photo: Google Maps screenshot

Russian troops are concentrating limited, understaffed and disjointed forces on the Sumy front, but even this Russian grouping of forces will be able to achieve the likely desired effect of drawing back and fixing Ukrainian forces near the border.

Source: Institute for the Study of War (ISW)

Details: The deputy commander of a Ukrainian brigade operating in northern Kharkiv Oblast reported on 20 May that Russian troops, including Chechens, are amassing on the Sumy front, but the limited number of Russian personnel suggests that Russia's goal is to draw back and entrench Ukrainian forces near the border.


Ukrainian military observer Kostiantyn Mashovets said that the Russian group in Kursk Oblast numbers 9,000-10,000 people. Mashovets believes that this grouping consists of three undermanned motorised rifle regiments (each lacking one or two battalions); eight motorised rifle, tank and infantry battalions; one airborne battalion, transferred from various units, formations and military districts; and at least two assault units at the level of a reinforced company or undermanned battalion.

ISW continues to assess that even limited Russian activity in other parts of the border below the threshold for Russian offensive operations could stretch Ukrainian forces along a wide front. Russian forces will be able to stretch and anchor Ukrainian forces to the border as long as Russia threatens to penetrate other border areas beyond northern Kharkiv Oblast.

To quote ISW's Key Takeaways on 20 May:

  • Ukrainian sources indicated that Russian forces are concentrating limited, understaffed, and incohesive forces on the Sumy front, but even such a Russian grouping of forces will be able to achieve the likely desired effect of drawing and fixing Ukrainian forces in the international border area.
  • Kremlin officials expressed their condolences to senior Iranian officials following the announcement of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi's and Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian's deaths on 20 May.
  • Russian leader Vladimir Putin fired Russian Deputy Defence Minister Colonel General Yury Sadovenko on 20 May, replacing him with former Deputy Economic Minister and current Federation Council Accounts Chamber Auditor Oleg Savelyev.
  • Putin also dismissed Presidential Advisor Alexandra Levitskaya on 20 May, but the reason for Levitskaya’s dismissal is unclear.
  • US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reiterated the White House's unwillingness to approve Ukraine's use of US-provided weapons in strikes against military targets in Russia following a meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group (also known as the Ramstein format) on 20 May.
  • Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas stated that some unspecified countries, presumably NATO member states, have already sent personnel to train Ukrainian soldiers "on the ground."
  • Russian Security Council Deputy Chairperson Dmitry Medvedev amplified a known Russian information operation aimed at directly undermining Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's legitimacy as president.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Vovchansk, Chasiv Yar, Avdiivka, and Donetsk City and in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and the Dnipro River Delta.
  • Russian opposition outlet Vazhnye Istorii (iStories) reported that Russian military authorities and Kazakh law enforcement acting on Russian orders detained at least two more servicemen in Kazakhstan who had deserted from the Russian military.

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