Ukraine is reportedly on the precipice of a major victory, with its counter-offensive around the eastern city of Kharkiv (Kharkov) unexpectedly putting the Russian army on the back foot. According to British intelligence, Russian forces appear to have been “taken by surprise” by the Ukrainians, who have reportedly advanced “up to 50 kilometres (31 miles) into previously Russian-held territory on a narrow front.”
A Saturday morning intelligence briefing said that the Kharkiv front was only “lightly held” by Russian forces which had moved elsewhere, apparently under the assumption that Kharkiv would not be the focus of the Ukrainian counter-offensive.
To make matters worse for the Russians, a large force, perhaps in the thousands, of soldiers, has become “increasingly isolated” around the city of Izium (Izyum), leaving them potentially vulnerable to being captured by Ukraine.
While the Kremlin has been quiet about the apparent Ukrainian gains, former FSB intelligence officer and military leader Igor Girkin said that Russia only has one or two days to mount a counter-attack at Izium or they could be forced to flee.
Girkin, who played a key role in the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, reportedly wrote on his Telegram account: “The question of the time of the counter-attack is very acute: if the enemy manages to gain a foothold in the positions reached, pull up artillery and air defence, then it will be extremely difficult for our units to throw him back …. if at all (given the extremely low staffing, especially infantry).”
Should the thousands of troops actually be fully encircled and captured by the Ukrainians, it would represent one of the largest battlefield defeats for the Russians since the Second World War.