Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Russia seizes more land than Ukraine liberated in 2023 counteroffensive

A multi-story residential building damaged by Russian shelling, Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine, Tuesday.  (Madiyevskyy Vyacheslav)
By Laris Karklis, Júlia Ledur and Ruby Mellen Washington Post

Russia has been targeting multiple points along the 600-mile front line in Ukraine, gaining ground against a Ukrainian army waiting for more troops and weapons to arrive.

In recent days, a Russian offensive into Ukraine’s Kharkiv region has displaced thousands of people. Some evacuees said this invasion was even more violent than the first. Russia’s military has also made gains farther south.

While Russia’s gains have been comparatively small, analysts said they are still significant as they pressure Ukraine’s military over a broad geographic area.

“They’re looking to create vulnerabilities on the Ukrainian side, pressing the enemy on all sides,” said Max Bergmann, director of the Europe, Russia, and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The amount of territory Russia has occupied over the last several weeks is about as large as the territory Ukraine retook during its lackluster spring counteroffensive in 2023. Analysts said this Russian push could be tied to a lack of mobilization in Ukraine: Many of the soldiers called up still need to be trained. They also cited Washington’s seven-month delay in approving more aid to Ukraine. Stocks of artillery shells and other long-range munitions are running low, impeding Ukraine’s defenses.

This new assault from Russia means Ukraine will have to move forces around, especially to the north, said Gian Gentile, a senior historian at Rand. This could hamper any Ukrainian efforts to prepare for an offensive of their own.

As Russia presses deeper into Ukraine, civilians living on the front lines are again faced with the all-too-familiar decision of whether to leave their homes or risk living under Russian occupation. Older residents, who waited out the first Russian push in small villages and towns such as Vovchansk are fleeing this time as Russian shelling intensifies.

“Do you think they need these villages?” Valentina Ilyenko, 73, said of the Russians to the Washington Post. “There’s nothing left. They’re going to keep going. They’re just clearing us all out of there for whatever they’re planning next.”

Data from the Institute for the Study of War, as of May 15. Calculations were done using territory control files and do not include assessed advances.

Isabelle Khurshudyan, Serhii Korolchuk and Michael Birnbaum contributed to this report.

- – -