Is Kharkiv Under Russian Control?

Is Kharkiv Under Russian Control?

Modern Military

Territorial Defence Forces of Ukraine soldiers near the freshly re-repainted (from Russian flag colors back into Ukrainian ones) entrance mark in Shevchenkove (Kharkiv region) liberated from Russian army. Credit: Mil.gov.ua, (Original post)

Today, September 13, 2022, is D+200 in the Russian Invasion of Ukraine. Last week, Ukraine launched a highly successful division (think 12+ Battalion Tactical Group (BTGs) equivalents) sized counterattack which drove 60-70 kilometers (36-42 miles) into Russian lines, forced the withdrawal/defeat of a score of Russian BTGs, and retook ~8,370 km2 (3,231 miles2) of the Kharkiv Oblast (province). For those of you following the war, this is very exciting times. This much maneuver hasn’t happened since Ukraine forced the Russian military to withdraw from near Kyiv, back in the spring.

How does the US Army define a counterattack?

A counterattack is an “attack by part or all of a defending force against an enemy attacking force, for such specific purposes as regaining ground lost, or cutting off or destroying enemy advance units, and with the general objective of denying to the enemy the attainment of the enemy’s purpose in attacking. In sustained defensive operations, it is undertaken to restore the battle position and is directed at limited objectives.” In the Kharkiv counterattack, the Ukraine military counterattacked to regain lost ground, as well as cut off or destroy Russian units.

@JominiW excellent map of the Kharkiv Counterattack
Tactical Summary of Ukraine’s Kharkiv Counterattack

The US Army defines the tactical level of war as “the planning and execution of battles and engagements.” At the tactical level, the war in Ukraine changed in a week from a war of attrition to a war of maneuver. Kharkiv is in the north of Ukraine. Ukraine used elements from the 92nd Mechanized Brigade, 93rd Mechanized Brigade, 25th Airborne Brigade, 80th Airborne Brigade, and Special Operations Forces as their spearhead for the Kharkiv counterattack.

These forces overwhelmed Russian BTGs from the 144th Guards Motor Rifle Division. Reinforcements from the Russian 3rd Armored Corps and 90th Tank Division were unable to stop the attack too. Looking at the map (above) or the video (below) of the offensive you can get a better idea of what happened last week. Play00:0001:01MuteSettingsEnter fullscreen00:00

Great video by @martinkaaaa that shows the Ukrainian counterattack over time

Assessment

So how would military professionals assess the success of the Kharkiv counterattack? There are two methods either by terrain or casualties inflicted and taken. Moreover, here is a short look at both methods.

Terrain: In August, I assessed that “At the beginning of the war, Russia controlled 7.1% of Ukrainian territory or 43,133 km2. This territory was seized in the 2014-2015 Donbas war. Since February 24, 2022, Russia has seized an additional 81,867 km2 of Ukrainian territory — all-in-all, 125,000 km2 of Ukraine is occupied by Russia. This is approximately 20.7% of ALL of Ukraine (Ukraine was approximately 603,550 km2 pre-2014).” The Kharkiv counterattack retook 8,370 km2 of occupied Ukrainian terrain or 6.7%. Russia still occupies ~116,640 km2 of Ukraine.

Russian Losses: In the last week, according to the Oryx Website, Russian forces have lost:
  • 65x T-72/80/90s Tanks Destroyed, Captured, or Abandoned
  • 118x BMPs/BTRs/BMDs (Armored Personnel Carriers) Destroyed, Captured, or Abandoned
  • 10x Engineer Vehicles Destroyed, Captured, or Abandoned
  • 33x Indirect Fire Systems (Mortars, Howitzers, and Multiple Rocket Launcher Systems) Destroyed, Captured, or Abandoned
  • 9x Air Defense Weapon Systems Destroyed, Captured, or Abandoned (2 ⬆️ )
  • 14x MT-LBs (Command and Control) Destroyed, Captured, or Abandoned (31 ⬆️)

This is the equivalent to the Russians having 4x BTGs completely destroyed during the Kharkiv counterattack.

Is Kharkiv Under Russian Control?
Ukrainian Losses: In the last week, according to the Oryx Website, Ukrainian forces losses were light. They lost:
  • 6x T-64/72/80 Tanks Destroyed, Captured, or Abandoned
  • 10x BMP/BTR/BMD (Armored Personnel Carriers) Destroyed, Captured, or Abandoned (⬆️ 10)
  • 1x Indirect Fire Systems (Howitzers and MRLS) Destroyed, Captured, or Abandoned (⬆️ 1)
  • 0x MT-LB ACRV (Command and Control) Destroyed, Captured, or Abandoned (No Change)Ukraine lost only part of a BTG.
Future Options

Ukraine has several options going forward — they can continue the offensive and try to cross the Oskil River (I give this a 20% chance — Ukraine would have to bring up dry or wet gap crossing equipment, furthermore I suspect they did not plan on this much success) or they consolidate the gains and prepare for a future operations (I give this an 80% chance of happening — they will establish positions on the west bank of the Oskil River and begin shaping operations for a future counterattack.)

What are shaping operations?

In this case, shaping operations are designed to set the conditions for success for a future offensive operation. In essence, Ukraine has used long-range artillery, special operations forces, UAVs, and partisans to attack Russian headquarters, artillery, ammunition depots, and supply depots.

On the other hand, the Russian military has three options going forward — they can try to re-establish defensive positions on the east bank of the Oskil River. Moreover, I give this a 60% chance of happening. Secondly, they could fall back and re-establish defensive positions on the east bank of the Aidar River (approximately 100 kilometers or 60 miles east of the Oskil River). I give this a 35% chance of happening. It all depends on how disorganized the Russian military is right now. Finally, they could attempt a counterattack and try to “pinch” the salient off. As a result of how disorganized the Russian military is right now, I give this a 5% chance of happening.

Battalion Tactical Group Reference:

Here is a chart that depicts, a typical pre-war, Battalion Tactical Group (BTG):

Is Kharkiv Under Russian Control?
Total Russian BDA (As of September 12, 2022 at 15:00 EDT). From the Oryx Website (Captures losses from February 24 onwards).

Key vehicles lost include:

  • 1,073x T-72/80/90s Tanks Destroyed, Captured, or Abandoned (65 ⬆️ — all change numbers since September 5, 2022. FYI — Russia lost 92 tanks in ALL of August)
    • Average of 5.4x tanks damaged, destroyed, abandoned and captured per day since the invasion started
  • 1,564x BMPs/BTRs/BMDs (Armored Personnel Carriers) Destroyed, Captured, or Abandoned (118 ⬆️. FYI — Russia lost 157 BMP/BTR/BMDs in ALL of August )
    • Average of 7.8x BMPs/BTRs damaged, destroyed, abandoned and captured per day since the invasion started
  • 195x Engineer Vehicles Destroyed, Captured, or Abandoned (10 ⬆️ )
  • 383x Indirect Fire Systems (Mortars, Howitzers, and Multiple Rocket Launcher Systems) Destroyed, Captured, or Abandoned (33 ⬆️ )
  • 101x Air Defense Weapon Systems Destroyed, Captured, or Abandoned (9 ⬆️ )
  • 317x MT-LBs (Command and Control) Destroyed, Captured, or Abandoned (14 ⬆️)

Since the beginning of the war, the Russian military has lost the equivalent of 52+ Battalion Tactical Groups (BTG at its core = 10 Tanks + 30 BMPs/BTRs/BMDs) or 5.7+ Divisions (9 BTGs per Division) worth of equipment.

Total Ukrainian BDA (As of September 12, 2022 at 1500 EDT). From the Oryx Website (Captures losses from February 24 onwards).

So far, according to Oryx, Ukrainian forces have lost:

  • 258x T-64/72/80 Tanks Destroyed, Captured, or Abandoned (⬆️ 6 all change numbers since September 5, 2022)
    • Average of 1.3x tanks damaged, destroyed, abandoned and captured per day since the invasion started
  • 356x BMP/BTR/BMD (Armored Personnel Carriers) Destroyed, Captured, or Abandoned (⬆️ 10)
  • 126x Indirect Fire Systems (Howitzers and MRLS) Destroyed, Captured, or Abandoned (⬆️ 1)
  • 35x MT-LB ACRV (Command and Control) Destroyed, Captured, or Abandoned (No Change)

Since the beginning of the war, the Ukrainian military has lost the equivalent of 11.8 Battalion Tactical Groups (BTG at its core = 10 Tanks + 30 BMPs/BTRs/BMDs) or 1.3+ Divisions (9 BTGs per Division) worth of equipment.

Conclusion

Want even more? Lastly, reach out to me me here for a virtual talk to your group or company on the Invasion of Ukraine and its tactical and strategic implications.

Got grit? Want to show it off at the gym or on the track? In addition, check out the TFCG store for grit hats, grit t-shirts, and grit coffee mugs. Show your grit.

Modern Military
Is Kharkiv Under Russian Control?

Is Kharkiv Under Russian Control?