Military intelligence: Russian northern grouping “set to expand to between 50,000 and 70,000 troops” to gear up for assault on Kharkiv 

Yana Sliemzina - 03 May 2024 | 16:42
Police recovering the remnants of an air bomb Russians dropped on Kharkiv on April 30, 2024 / Photo: Hnat Holyk for Gwara Media

UKRAINE, May 3 — Russian troops are preparing for an assault on Kharkiv and Sumy regions, presumably at the end of May or June 2024, says deputy chief of Ukrainian military intelligence agency Vadym Skibitskyi said in an interview with Economist, published on May 2. 

According to Skibitskyi, currently, Russians have 35,000 troops in their northern grouping “across from Kharkiv” and 514,000 land troops “committed to Ukraine operation” in general. For an assault, Skibitskyi says the grouping “is set to expand to between 50,000 and 70,000 troops.” 

On April 29, Kharkiv Oblast Governor Oleh Syniehubov said that Russians are building up forces across the border from the region, though the pace of buildup hasn’t changed in the last ten months. 

Skibitskyi notes that Ukraine’s immediate concern is holding high-ground Chasiv Yar, which will allow Russians to move forward towards Sloviansk, Kostiantynivka, and Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region. After Russian success in Ocheretyne, Ukrainian troops are “some way from stabilizing the situation,” he says. Russia is “throwing everything” to achieve strategic gains in the region and “take something” in time for Victory Day on May 9. 

Even 70,000 Russian troops are “not enough,” in Skibitskyi’s opinion, to take a major city like Kharkiv. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) research group and think tank agree with this assessment, as do Kharkiv’s authorities and Ukrainian military leaders

Skibitskyi notes that Russia always knew April and May would be a difficult time for the Ukrainian Army, with shell hunger and weapon shortages Ukraine was and still is dealing with because of over half-a-year delay in US military assistance. 

Ukrainian troops defended Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city in the northeast, from Russian forces in 2022. Russians settled on occupying more than half of the Kharkiv oblast and attacking Kharkiv relentlessly with artillery shells, drones, and air bombs, often from Russia’s Belgorod oblast. Ukrainian forces deoccupied most communities in the region during the Kharkiv counteroffensive in the autumn of 2022. 

In December 2023, Russians intensified the attacks on Kharkiv, exploiting the lack of air defense and missile shortages in the region. In March 2024, Russian attacks completely destroyed the Kharkiv region’s power and heating infrastructure

At about 2:00 today, Russians dropped a glide bomb on Kharkiv, killing at least one man, injuring at least one woman, and trapping people under the rubble of heavily damaged private houses. 

Photo: Police recovering the remnants of an air bomb Russians dropped on Kharkiv on April 30, 2024 / Photo: Hnat Holyk for Gwara Media

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