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Ukrainian forces are successfully launching a counteroffensive in Kharkiv and could soon push Russian troops back to Russia’s border, according to a U.S. think tank.
Russian forces are retreating from the northeast Kharkiv area and notably destroyed several bridges in an effort to “successful Ukrainian attack,” the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington D.C.-based group, said Saturday.
“Armies generally only destroy bridges if they have largely decided they will not attempt to cross the river in the other direction anytime soon; Russian forces are therefore unlikely to launch operations to retake the northeast outskirts of Kharkiv liberated by Ukrainian forces in the near future,” the report said.
Ukraine’s military success in Kharkiv could force a strategic shift of Russia’s forces, preventing reinforcements now needed in Kharkiv from providing support in other regions, the report said.
These potential reinforcements, however, may still not be enough for Russia to reconquer the region, it added.
“Given the current rate of Ukrainian advances, Russian forces may be unable to prevent Ukrainian forces from reaching the Russian border, even with additional reinforcements,” the ISW report said.
“Ukrainian counteroffensive demonstrates promising Ukrainian capabilities and may set conditions for further offensive operations into northeastern Kharkiv Oblast,” the report continued.
In the southeast region of Ukraine, Russia’s military has seized Mariupol and could soon annex Kherson or declare the region’s independence from Ukraine, as it did in Donetsk and Luhansk, according to the ISW report.
“By all indications, Russian forces will announce the creation of a Kherson People’s Republic or possibly forcibly annex Kherson Oblast in the near future and are intensifying occupation measures in Mariupol,” the report continued. “Russian forces are reportedly increasing their security presence in both Kherson and Mariupol.”
Pro-Russia politicians in Kherson are also conducting campaigns for the region to “strive to become a subject of Russia” which “will resemble something close to Crimea in terms of the pace of development,” the report concluded.