The city of Kharkiv has been hotly contested since the beginning of the Ukraine war. Now the Institute for the Study of War estimates that the Russian armed forces there have suffered a serious setback. The experts even suspect a local victory.
Ukrainian forces "appear to have won the battle of Kharkiv". This is the assessment of the US-based Institute for the Study of War, a defense think tank. Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, is just 50 kilometers from the Russian border and has been bombed by Russia since the war began in February.
The US institute sees the fighting around Kharkiv as another obvious setback for the war goals of Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is made clear, among other things, by the fact that Russian units have not tried to hold their positions around the city against a counterattack by Ukrainian troops. "Ukraine seems to have won the battle for Kharkiv," the institute said. "Ukrainian forces prevented Russian troops from encircling, let alone taking, Kharkiv, and then drove them out of the city's outskirts." They would have done the same thing in the battle for the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
The US experts, on the other hand, suspect a change in strategy by Russia. Apparently, the action aims to replace their own troops with mercenaries, among other things. According to the analysts, Russian units have hardly tried to assert themselves against Ukrainian forces in the past few days. "Reports from Western officials and a video from an officer of the Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) indicate that Moscow is focusing on an orderly withdrawal of its own troops, rather than holding positions near the city." After that, proxy forces would be allowed to intervene in the forces. Ukraine now controls an area stretching to the Siverskyi Donets River, some 40 km east of the city.
Earlier, British military intelligence said Russia had lost "significant armored maneuvering elements" of a tactical battalion group, typically around 800 strong, in a failed attempt to cross the strategically important Donbass river south-east of Kharkiv. Local authorities also report that Moscow is continuing to bomb villages north of Kharkiv.
On Friday evening, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov wrote in a Facebook post: "We are entering a new, long phase of the war." He predicted "extremely tough weeks" in which Ukraine would largely stand alone against an "enraged aggressor". In his daily video address on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said: "The gradual liberation of the Kharkiv region proves that we will not leave anyone to the enemy."