Militarily, the Ukrainians may once again have taken the Russian troops by surprise. In the heavily contested city of Sieverodonetsk, they seem to have lured Moscow’s army into a trap. This is supported by numerous current reports in the social networks.
As is so often the case in this war, they cannot be independently verified.
One thing is certain as of Saturday afternoon: The Ukrainian army is conducting a very surprising and so far successful counter-offensive in the city in the Donbass. According to the numerous reports, which are said to be based on local sources, the Ukrainians previously feigned a withdrawal. The Russian troops then advanced to the center and thus occupied around two thirds of the city area. However, this was probably done without the appropriate protection and equipment, leaving the troops vulnerable.
Then the Ukrainians struck across the city on a broad front. Half of the city area is said to be back under Ukrainian control, as Luhansk governor Serhiy Gaidai wrote on Twitter. He said on Ukrainian television: “It was a difficult situation. The Russians controlled 70 percent of the city, but in the past two days they have been pushed back.”
Sieverodonetsk is the last major city in the Luhansk region that Russia has not yet conquered. The declared goal of the Russian armed forces is to take over the entire Donbass region, which also includes the Donetsk region. Parts of the Donbass have been partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.
The neighboring cities of Sievarodonetsk and Lysychansk are around 80 kilometers east of Kramatorsk, the capital of the Ukrainian-controlled part of the Donetsk region. Before the start of the Russian offensive, Sievjerodonetsk had around 100,000 inhabitants. A few tens of thousands are said to have remained. The supply situation in the city is catastrophic. There is hardly any electricity, little food and water. Large parts of the city are in ruins. Observers fear a second Mariupol.
As was seen on videos on social networks on Saturday, fresh Ukrainian troops are said to be in the city. Including a brigade of foreign fighters and paramilitary units. This is surprising, because the supply routes into the city had been reduced to a westbound expressway in the past week. And it too was under constant Russian artillery fire.
However, the Ukrainians have already shown in Mariupol that they can maintain supply and supply routes even in almost hopeless situations. There, at the Asovstal Steel Plant, the camphors were supplied by helicopters. Fresh troops were also brought. Only when this supply line was discovered by pro-Russian fighters did the Ukrainians have to stop flying.
The battle for Sievjerodonetsk is considered to be particularly bloody and costly for both sides. Battles in the cities tend to favor Ukraine because Russia is less able to exploit its artillery superiority. In addition, Russian fire is often so imprecise that it would also endanger their own troops.
In its daily briefing on the situation in Ukraine on Saturday, the British secret service assumes that poorly equipped pro-Russian militias are primarily deployed in Sievjerodonetsk. They would be sent forward to spare the actual Russian troops during the costly battles.
Hardly any expert had recently thought that Ukraine could hold the city. The British secret service recently assumed that Russia would conquer the entire Luhansk region in the next two weeks. With the counter-offensive of the Ukrainians, however, it could take a little longer.