UKRAINE, KHARKIV OBLAST, May 27 — The Russian army is allegedly preparing an offensive towards Zolochiv or Bohodukhiv in the Kharkiv region. To do this, they are building a new group of troops, reported the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) after Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s statement.

On May 10, Russia launched a new ground offensive north and northeast of the Kharkiv region, in Vovchansk and Lyptsi directions. Military analysts and the Ukrainian military said Russia’s main goal in a new offensive would be to stretch Ukrainian troops and resources and force Ukraine to pull forces away from Donetsk Oblast and other directions. 

The Ukrainian president spoke about the offensive towards Zolochiv or Bohodukhiv while visiting a printing house destroyed by a Russian missile on May 23. 

“Russia is preparing for an offensive, and another group of troops is building up 90 kilometers to the northwest, near our border,” Zelenskyy said.

ISW reports that Zelenskyy appears to be talking about the Hraivoron-Borysivka-Proletarskyi area in western Belgorod Oblast. Satellite imagery of the area shows that Russian troops have expanded their activities at bases and depots in settlements in the region in recent weeks. However, the current amount of possible Russian troop concentration in the Hraivoron-Borysivka-Proletarskyi area remains unknown.

ISW experts assume that Russian troops could launch an offensive either toward Zolochiv and Bohodukhiv, two Ukrainian cities northwest of Kharkiv within 25 kilometers of the international border, or westward toward settlements along the highway connecting Bohodukhiv to the Sumy region.

Russian forces are currently bringing the Northern Grouping of Forces up to its reported planned  capacity in the international border area (according to the Ukrainian military intelligence, that’s roughly 50,000-70,000 troops.) Even limited Russian offensives in these areas, say ISW experts, would add pressure that would stretch Ukrainian manpower and logistics over a broader front and possibly allow Russian forces to establish tactical bridgeheads to support further operations northwest of Kharkiv or toward Sumy. 

However, ISW says that even on the upper limit of Northern Grouping’s strength, “it will lack the necessary manpower needed to conduct a successful operation to envelop, encircle, or seize Kharkiv or Sumy cities, however.” 

The ISW emphasized that such concentration of troops near the border and preparation of an offensive is possible because Western partners do not allow Ukraine to strike at Russia.

As the General Staff reported, the Russian army’s activity in the Kupiansk direction almost doubled during the day. There were no significant changes in the Kharkiv direction. The Russian army continues to try to improve the tactical situation near Vovchansk and Lyptsi. 

Overall, there were 83 combat engagements along the frontline since the beginning of the day. 

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  • According to analysts at the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), the Russian offensive on Vovchansk is largely a result of restrictions on Ukraine using Western-provided weapons to strike legitimate military targets on Russian territory, according to the ISW report of May 12.