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Intelligence Sources Warn of Imminent Russian Offensive on Kharkiv with Upwards of 70,000 Troops

Russia's campaign to depopulate Kharkiv (Credits: Atlantic Council)

According to Vadym Skibitskyi, the deputy chief of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, Russian troops are gearing up for a huge assault on the Kharkiv and Sumy regions, likely to take place in late May or June 2024.

In an interview with The Economist published on May 2, Skibitskyi revealed that the Russian northern grouping currently has 35,000 troops stationed across from Kharkiv, with an additional 514,000 land troops committed to the Ukraine operation. He warned that the grouping is expected to expand to between 50,000 and 70,000 troops in preparation for the assault.

Skibitskyi’s concerns were echoed by Kharkiv Oblast Governor Oleh Syniehubov, who reported on April 29 that Russian forces are building up their presence across the border from the region. However, the pace of the buildup has remained steady over the past ten months.

Russia-Ukraine war (Credits: The Guardian)

The Ukrainian military is mainly focused on holding the high-ground position of Chasiv Yar, which would allow Russian forces to advance towards Sloviansk, Kostiantynivka, and Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region.

Following Russian successes in Ocheretyne, Ukrainian troops are still working to stabilize the situation. Skibitskyi notes that Russia is “throwing everything” to achieve strategic gains in the region before Victory Day on May 9.

However, he believes that even 70,000 Russian troops would not be sufficient to capture a major city like Kharkiv. This assessment is shared by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) research group, think tank, Kharkiv’s authorities, and Ukrainian military leaders.

Skibitskyi also highlighted Ukraine’s ongoing struggles with shell hunger and weapon shortages, exacerbated by a delay of over half a year in US military assistance. Despite these challenges, Ukrainian troops successfully defended Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, from Russian forces in 2022.

Russia’s Possible Invasion of Ukraine (Credits: CNN)

However, Russians continue to occupy more than half of the Kharkiv oblast and have intensified their attacks on the city, exploiting weaknesses in air defense and missile shortages.

In recent months, Russian attacks have caused damage to the Kharkiv region’s power and heating infrastructure, with a glide bomb dropped on the city just today resulting in at least one fatality, one injury, and people trapped under rubble. As tensions continue to escalate, Ukraine remains vigilant and prepared to defend its territories against Russian aggression.

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