May 19, 2024
Gunners from 43rd Separate Mechanized Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine fire at Russian position with a 155 mm self-propelled howitzer 2C22 “Bohdana”, in the Kharkiv region, on April 21, 2024, amid the Russian invasion in Ukraine.

Defeating Russia’s Kharkiv Operation Requires Eliminating Russia’s Sanctuary

Current US policy prohibiting Ukraine from using US-provided weapons in the territory of Russia is compromising Kyiv’s ability to defend itself against the cross-border invasion near Kharkiv

Current US policy prohibiting Ukraine from using US-provided weapons in the territory of the Russian Federation is severely compromising Ukraine’s ability to defend itself against the renewed cross-border invasion Russia has recently launched in Kharkiv Oblast.US policy has effectively created a vast sanctuary in which Russia has been able to amass its ground invasion force and from which it is launching glide bombs and other long-range strike systems in support of its renewed invasion.  Whatever the merits of this US policy before the Russian assault on Kharkiv Oblast began, it should be modified immediately to reflect the urgent realities of the current situation.

The Russian military began an offensive operation along the Russian-Ukrainian border in northern Kharkiv Oblast on May 10 — an effort that will pose serious challenges to Ukrainian forces over the coming months.The operation seeks to fix Ukrainian forces across the theater and thin them out along the 600-mile frontline to create opportunities, specifically in Donetsk Oblast, among other significant objectives that ISW has warned about at length.[1] Russian forces will likely leverage their tactical foothold in northern Kharkiv Oblast in the coming days to intensify offensive operations and pursue the initial phase of an offensive effort likely intended to push back Ukrainian forces from the border with Belgorod Oblast and advance to within tube artillery range of Kharkiv City.[2] The operation could set conditions for a major offensive operation that seeks to seize Kharkiv City, though Russian forces’ current limited efforts do not suggest that Russian forces are immediately pursuing a large-scale sweeping offensive operation to envelop, encircle, or seize Kharkiv City.[3] Russia’s operation is still nonetheless dangerous and is already diverting some Ukrainian forces and resources from Donetsk to Kharkiv.[4] Russia’s Kharkiv operation will force Ukraine to make difficult prioritization decisions that can generate significant operational effects in favor of Russia in the coming months.

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