In late March 1944, Russian rifle forces infiltrated unoccupied territory, and encircled the town of Kovel - an important railway hub, garrisoned only by miscellaneous German rear area units and SS troops on anti-partisan duty. On 5 April, battered elements of 5. SS-Panzer-Division Wiking had lifted the siege with an attack from the west. Protecting the SS men's left flank, expanding the breach northward, were 4. Panzer-Division forces. On 10 April, the Russians would show that they hadn't given up the thought of pocketing Kovel.