Russia Rapidly Retreating as Ukraine Makes Big Territorial Gains

Russian troops in Ukraine appear to be rapidly retreating from the areas around Kharkiv while Ukrainian armed forces make significant advances north and northwest of the city, as shown by unverified maps tracking Moscow's invasion of the neighboring country.

@War_Mapper, a Twitter account that has been mapping the Russian invasion of Ukraine since February 24 using drone and satellite images of Ukraine, reported on Tuesday that Ukraine launched two offensive near Kharkiv, where Ukrainian troops took the settlements of Slobozhanske, Borshchova, Rus'ki Tyshky and Cherkas'ki north of the city, and Bairak, Rubizhne, Verkhnii, Saltiv and Zamilivka northwest of Kharkiv.

On the other hand, near Izyum, a city over 70 miles away from Kharkiv, Russian troops made advances by taking control of the Velyka Komyshuvakha village, according to the Twitter account. Russian troops, according to @War_Mapper, have entered Derylove and Drobysheve, two villages northeast of Lyman, a city in the Donetsk Oblast.

Russian state-controlled news agency RIA FAN covered the conquest of the village of Velyka Komyshuvakha.

These claims have not been officially confirmed by either Ukraine's armed forces or Russian authorities.

Ukrainian Armed Forces claimed to have retaken five villages near Kharkiv in an evening report from May 6, saying troops had gained control of Oleksandrivka, Fedorivka, Ukrainka, Shestakovo, Peremoha, and part of Cherkasky Tyshky.

According to the latest data from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russian forces are stalling around the area surrounding Izyum and did not make any confirmed advances to the southeast or southwest of the city as of May 9. But the Institute added that Russian troops were "likely attempting to concentrate the forces necessary to resume offensive operations in the coming days."

The ISW said Russian troops had made marginal advances in the areas surrounding the city of Severodonetsk in the Luhansk Oblast, only a couple hours drive away from the villages @War_Mapper said they were taken in the Donetsk Oblast on Tuesday.

It added that Russian troops were continuing to amass troops in Belgorod Oblast to prevent Ukrainian troops from advancing beyond Kharkiv towards the border.

Despite redirecting troops to the Donbas region, where Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine is now focused, Russia does not appear to have made significant progress in recent weeks. Ukraine's counter-attacks near Kharkiv have proven successful at holding back Russian troops, and even pushing them back, if the data observed by Twitter military observer @War_Mapper are to be held true.

These small but significant defeats by the Russian army would add up to the massive retreat from the areas around Kyiv ordered by Moscow in early April, which allowed Ukrainian troops to take back massive territories around the country's capital.

Last weekend, the ISW reported that the Ukrainian counteroffensive northeast of Kharkiv was making significant progress "and will likely advance to the Russian border in the coming days or weeks."

	Ukraine Military Makes Big Territorial Gains
Ukrainian tank crews with infantrymen. Ukrainian soldiers drink (Inset) a cup of coffee in Seversk, eastern Ukraine, on May 8, 2022, as they wait to move to Pereizne, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. John Moore / YASUYOSHI CHIBA/ Getty

The destruction of three bridges in the area around Kharkiv by Russian troops, as reported by the Ukrainian General Staff is, according to the ISW, a sign that Russian troops do not intend to return to these territories.

"Armies generally only destroy bridges if they have largely decided they will not attempt to cross the river in the other direction anytime soon; Russian forces are therefore unlikely to launch operations to retake the northeast outskirts of Kharkiv liberated by Ukrainian forces in the near future," a ISW report from May 7 said.

The ISW estimates that Russian forces will not be able to hold back an advance by the Ukrainian troops to the border, which is expected in the coming days.

Newsweek has contacted Russia's Ministry of Defense and Ukraine's Armed Forces for comment.