- Ukrainian forces to the east and southeast of Kharkiv retain the offensive initiative.
- Russian forces are withdrawing from the strategic hub of Izium and regrouping along a straight north-south line running just east from Kupiansk down to Izium.
- In the South, company-level fighting continues northeast of Kherson; neither side has made any significant gains since early last week.
- In response to the Kharkiv region offensive, Russian air and missile forces have attacked energy and water infrastructure throughout Eastern Ukraine and caused massive blackouts in major cities.
- On the basis of reported large-scale US intelligence and added advanced weapons systems assistance, Russia has concluded that it is now de facto at war with the US. This is no longer a local affair.
- On similar insight, Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) Valery Zaluzhny warns that Russian use of tactical nukes cannot be ruled out.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Samarkand at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit on September 15–16.
Ukrainian forces have continued their advance south/southeast down the M03 roadway and have reached Izium. Some fighting continues while the majority of forces facing the Ukrainian advance were light-armored DPR units.
Russian counterattacks have been limited to air and artillery strikes. Some regular Russian reserves and reinforcements have reportedly been moved into Oskil (10 kilometers east of Izium) to assist in the retreat.
The loss of Izium is critical to Russian operations in the Donbas salient. With it, Russian operations between Izium and Sloviansk, and those around Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Barvinkove now must end and those forces must fall back towards the eastern part of the salient.
But the fallback also has the advantage of straightened front lines and concentration of forces around the principal Russian target of Bakhmut.
The Ukrainian General Staff in its latest report estimates that there are between 27 and 32 Russian battalion task groups (BTGs) in the area between Siversk and Izium. A further push down the M-03 could trap at least some of those BTGs – unless, of course, they are reinforced from the area of Oskil.
Further south, west of the city of Donetsk, Russian forces continued to probe into Pervomaiske (15 kilometers northwest of Donetsk City) and Novomykhailivka (about 20 kilometers southwest of the city.)
Several related aspects of the surprise and surprisingly rapid move of Ukrainian forces from the vicinity of the city of Kharkiv in a south-easterly direction toward Izium are of note.
The New York Times reports (and for once we have no quarrel with the paper’s reporting) that the Ukrainian forces had large amounts of detailed US intelligence available in preparing for the straight drive southeast and flanking action toward Kupiansk.
Defenses were reported to be light, largely DPR light armored units and militia. The entire operation, particularly as attention was drawn toward the much advertised southern offensive, represented an excellent target of opportunity – and a high-value one at that with the capture of Izium, the anchor point of the Russian Donbas offensive after the withdrawal from the Kiev Oblast.
What’s astonishing is the apparent utter lack of Russian tactical intelligence that might have alerted the regional Russian military leadership of what was about to come down the pike. Just how debilitating and costly this Russian intel failure will prove still remains to be seen.
However, what it portends is not yet another firing of some military intelligence analysts or military commanders. That may happen – all the way up to Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu as some Russian commentators are demanding.
What the immediate Russian response to the military setback indicates is a different matter altogether. There was some reinforcement of the Donbas front.
But most significantly, there was a first-ever series of massed air and missile attacks on major cities in eastern Ukraine that have caused large-scale blackouts, water systems failures and other infrastructure failures.
Russia has concluded that it is now in a direct war with the US, that this is now an American war. The boundaries had been pushed all along. But the mass delivery of US heavy artillery has pushed the situation into the grey zone. But the Kharkiv offensive directly involved US military personnel in critical line functions.
The one person to see this immediately was Ukrainian C-in-C Zaluzhny, who has starkly warned of the possibility of the use of tactical nuclear weapons by Russian forces. Russia has repeatedly denied such intent. Alas, it had repeatedly denied the intent of sending troops into Ukraine.
By directly involving itself not only in the planning but also in the execution of Ukrainian offensive action, the US has crossed what certainly may be seen by the Russian leadership as a red line announced at the very outset of the Russian action in Ukraine.
This does not mean going nuclear. But it likely means escalating from local conventional military action to economic and financial targeting of civilian infrastructure, industrial capacity and energy sources.
The head of the German armed forces General Eberhard Zorn warned of this last week in an interview with the daily Die Welt by noting that Russia has not yet used most of its air force and navy potential.
Follow Uwe Parpart on Twitter at @uwe_parpart