Ukraine’s defense of Lysychansk – the last city in the Luhansk region that it still holds – has become much more fragile.
For weeks, Russian forces have been trying to destroy Ukrainian defensive positions south and east of the city in an effort to encircle and isolate the Ukrainian troops tasked with holding them.
In recent days, the Russians have advanced on several villages south of Lysychansk, although they have suffered losses due to Ukrainian artillery. Indeed, Ukraine’s military alleges that some tactical groups in Russia’s battalion are retreating to restore their combat capabilities.
The Institute for the Study of War, in its latest analysis of the battlefield, says the advance in the south means the Russians “may threaten Lysychansk in the coming days, avoiding a difficult crossing across the Donets River”.
The settlements that Ukrainian authorities confirmed as lost on Wednesday are all on the west bank of the Donets River, less than 10 kilometers from the southern outskirts of the city.
“The Russians are closing in on Lysychansk, digging into nearby towns. The city is being bombed by planes,” according to Serhiy Hayday, head of Luhansk’s regional military administration.
Hayday acknowledged that it is “difficult” in the area south of Lysychansk. “The enemy entered Toshkivka, which allowed to increase firepower in other settlements.”
He said Russian forces are entrenched in several villages south of the city, including Ustynivka, Pidlisne and Myrna Dolyna. “It’s not easy for our soldiers to maintain the defense,” he admitted.
Throughout its military campaign, Russia used intense bombing tactics before attempting to seize territory. Hayday’s comments suggest that Ukrainian defenses around Lysychansk have begun to succumb to much greater Russian firepower after weeks of bombardment.
Ukrainian forces continue to fight on the outskirts of the nearby city of Severodonetsk and in adjacent communities – and benefit from higher ground in Lysychansk.
But their already compromised supply lines are becoming more tenuous, and the sheer magnitude of Russian firepower is crushing defensive positions.
The setbacks suffered in recent days, after weeks of resistance, probably mark the most difficult week for Ukraine since the last defenders surrendered in Mariupol.
The attacks near Lysychansk are being carried out in conjunction with renewed Russian efforts to block the road west of Bakhmut, a critical line of communication for Ukrainians. In some places, Russian forces are within a few kilometers of the highway.
The Ukrainian defense of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk consumed the firepower of many Russian units and hampered their efforts to make progress in the neighboring Donetsk region.
However, the Russians can still use reserves held in nearby areas of southwestern Russia – while some of Ukraine’s best units are seriously depleted from months of use of missiles, rockets, artillery and air strikes.
But if the Ukrainians decide to maintain resistance around Lysychansk, it will likely take substantial Russian efforts, possibly over the course of weeks, to take the city. Until then, it may resemble the razed cities of Severodonetsk, Popasna and Mariupol.
Source: CNN Brasil