This is the map that shows the historic development of Ukraine.
Russia is, in my opinion, aiming at taking the pink and yellow parts which have predominantly Russian speaking populations. The most north- western pink oblast is Kharkov which is also the name of the oblast’s main city.
On March 1 the city was already under attack.
Source: LiveUAmap – bigger
There were a number of artillery impacts (red dots) on military targets in and around the city.
But the situation soon stagnated. The current mayor or Kharkov Igor Terekhov was on the side of the Zelenski regime. The rowdy soccer fans of the city’s main club had formed the original Azov regiment. A militia group that split from them at the start of the war were the Kraken:
The Kraken unit was formed by Azov Battalion veterans on the day Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, a military spokesman said. That makes the Krakens something like a kid brother to the older Azov unit, whose fighters achieved world renown status last month for their epic last stand inside Azovstal, a sprawling steel complex in the port city of Mariupol.Like the Azov fighters, whose name comes from the Sea of Azov, the regiment’s name and insignia evoke a different maritime theme: the kraken, a mythical sea monster resembling a giant squid.
Their commander is Konstantin V. Nemichev, a political and military figure in Kharkiv. The son of a schoolteacher and an electrician, Nemichev, 26, launched a political career in the right-wing National Corps party before he graduated from college, including an unsuccessful bid last year to become Kharkiv’s mayor. He drew heavily on the support of rowdy young soccer fans, many of whom now serve in his unit.
…The Kraken unit operates somewhat in a gray zone — a force that answers to the Defense Ministry but is not part of Ukraine’s armed forces. Soldiers in Ruska Lozova say the unit has about 1,800 soldiers. The military spokesman declined to say how many serve in the unit.
The Kraken follow, like Azov, a fascist ideology. The mayor and the Kraken units had prepared for fighting within and around the city. They had fortified areas and took positions in houses that faced the Russian lines.
The Russian attackers did not want to destroy the city and its Russian inhabitants. They never were ordered to launch an all out attack. Over several months the positions on either side hardly changed. This is the map of the situation on May 1.
The western side of the map the Russian held territory had been given up after the move on Kiev had been reversed. On the eastern side they had gained the area around Iizum. But the fighting around Kharkov had continued for more than two months with nearly unchanged lines.
Then something curious happened. In an orderly move the Russian forces around Kharkov began to pull back. Here are the positions on May 15.
The Ukrainian military and the Kraken felt victorious. They had ‘defeated’ the enemy. They left their prepared positions in and around the city to pursued the Russian forces which continued to move back. They did not smell the trap.
Here is the situation on May 31.
The defenders of Kharkov were now in small towns or the open country side. Since the end of May the map showed few changes but daily heavy bombardment of Ukrainian units.
On June 5 Stars & Stripes reported:
The Kraken unit — which in recent weeks has helped take back villages north of Kharkiv — filled its ranks with “gym rats,” bouncers and “ultras,” the professional soccer fans who sometimes showed their love for Kharkiv’s Metalist team with riotous behavior.
…But their unit also draws veterans from the regular army, battle-tested paramilitary fighters from Donbas and other volunteers who range in age from 25 to 60.
…By the time the Kraken unit liberated this suburban village of about 5,000 people at the end of April, many had fled. Maleev estimated Tuesday that only 200 or so remained in what amounted to a newly liberated ghost town. Few here even stepped outside as Ukrainian and Russian forces continued to trade mortar fire.Much of the village has also been damaged or destroyed, including the Church of St. Nicholas, the village council building and a small hospital. Elsewhere, a tidy row of beehives stood in a field near houses whose heavy wooden roof beams had been snapped and charred.
The report mentioned that there were several Russian drones in the air above the unit. The soldiers hide from them. It is not the only one that has been drawn out of Kharkov city and received such treatment.
Since the end of May Russian artillery as well as aerial bombing has been raining down on them day by day. It achieved the desired results. The Ukrainian militia had significant losses.
On June 26 the Russian Defense Ministry mentioned the Kraken in its daily report:
Attack launched by Russian artillery near Pitomnik (Kharkov region) has resulted in the elimination of up to 100 militants from Kraken Nazi group and about 10 units of combat equipment. Commanders of the militants have decided to abandon the positions and to withdraw the rest of this unit to Kharkov.
…High-precision attacks launched by Russian Aerospace Forces have resulted in the elimination of 4 command posts, including those of Kharkov-1 and Kharkov-2 Territorial Defence battalions near Kharkov, as well as a training base of mercenaries deployed near Nikolayev.
Some 100 dead and four command post on one day is quite a bit. But those were not the only attacks that day and the campaign ran for over 30 days. President Putin’s order to ‘demilitarize’ and ‘denazify’ the Ukraine gets executed well.
Here is the situation on June 30.
After a full month of such artillery preparations, which heavily diminished the units that originally had been protecting Kharkov, the Russians are again on the move.
The person who runs the excellent Military Summary And Analysis channel reported today (vid) that today several towns on the Kharkov frontline had been retaken by the Russians.