Building by building, Russian troops are taking over the strategically important industrial city of Sievjerodonetsk in eastern Ukraine. They now controlled “80 percent of the city,” said the governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Gajdaj, on Thursday night.
“The enemy is carrying out attacks in the village of Sievjerodonetsk,” the Ukrainian General Staff later confirmed in its situation report. It is unclear how many districts of the former metropolis the Ukrainians still hold.
The Russians had already taken the city center on Wednesday. Battles in the suburbs of Bobrove and Ustynivka were unsuccessful for the Russian troops, despite support from grenade launchers, according to the situation report.
On the other hand, the Ukrainian military conceded that the Russian offensive in Komyshuvakha was at least “partially successful”. The urban settlement is south of the city of Lyssychansk, the Russians’ next stage destination.
Lysychansk and Sievjerodonetsk are only separated by the river Siversky Donets and before the war together formed a conurbation of 380,000 inhabitants.
“The situation in the east is really difficult,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told US broadcaster Newsmax in an interview published on Wednesday. “We lose 60 to 100 soldiers killed in combat every day and around 500 are wounded.”
The Ukrainian army chief Valeriy Saluschnyi said on Thursday night that his soldiers in Luhansk were currently confronted with the “most difficult situation”.
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“The enemy has an operational advantage in terms of artillery,” he admitted in a telephone conversation on Wednesday with his French colleague Thierry Burkhard, according to Kyiv.
Zalushnyj called for his troops to be converted to NATO types of weapons “as soon as possible”. “It would save lives.” Ukraine is hoping for the multiple rocket launchers recently promised by US President Joe Biden, which promise greater range and accuracy.
According to British estimates, too, the Russian troops have taken most of Sievjerodonetsk. Supported by heavy artillery attacks, the armed forces made local gains, the Ministry of Defense said in London.
However, according to the report, citing intelligence, Russian troops suffered casualties. The main road into the city will probably still be held by Ukrainian units, it said.
According to the report, there are several points where Russia could again try to cross the Seversky Donets River, which is a natural line of defense for Ukrainian troops. During the campaign, the Russian military made several unsuccessful attempts to cross the river using floating bridges.
Now the attack from the south should prevent the Russian armed forces from having to cross the Siwersky Donets, according to the military experts of the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in their most recent analysis. If Russian forces were successful there, they could secure the Luhansk Oblast and focus more on the adjacent Donetsk Oblast, the British MoD stressed.
However, both potential river crossing points – between Seyerodonetsk and the neighboring city of Lysychansk and near the recently conquered city of Lyman – are still under Ukrainian control. The Ukrainians had destroyed several bridges to make it more difficult for the Russians to advance.
London believes Russian troops need at least a short tactical break to prepare for a river crossing and further attacks in the Donetsk region. There the Ukrainian units had prepared defensive positions. But this threatens to lose momentum of the Russian offensive.
According to the Ukrainian general staff, another attempt to cross the river failed in front of the city of Sloviansk. There, Russian troops coming from Lyman tried to take the village of Raihorodok on the Siwerski Donets, but were repulsed.
The Sloviansk-Kramatorsk area is the operational center of the Ukrainian armed forces in Donbass. Before the war, around half a million people lived in the metropolitan area.