Military historians will someday debate the wisdom of defending Severodonetsk. I debated the pros and cons with myself. Regardless of that final judgement, the battle is over. Ukraine withdrew the last of its forces across the river overnight, ceding yet another worthless pile of rubble to the Russian invaders. Hopefully, the cost to defend it was worth it.
That’s some real “thousand-yard stare” stuff, there. It was time. Here’s video of them using rafts and ropes to get across the river.
The front line now moves to Lysychansk, with Russian forces pushing on its southern edge up from Popasna.
I’ve written about the defense of Lysychansk here. In short, that southern approach is high ground. Click that link for the Google Street view, and you can pan around to explore the area. But it looks like this:
Russian forces will need to drive that road, with plenty of urban and natural cover for ambushes, while Ukrainian forces use the high ground to rain fire. And with HIMARS long-range rocket artillery already in theater, as well as M777 howitzers, attempts to suppress those Ukrainian high-ground positions with artillery will be under serious counter-battery danger. Meanwhile, Russia is being shredded on its approach north from Popasna, paying for each advanced kilometer in blood. And that’s just getting to Lysychansk’s southern edge.
Like Severodonetsk, Lysychansk isn’t even strategically important to Ukraine. Russia would claim a propaganda victory in conquering Luhansk Oblast, but from a strategic standpoint, Ukraine’s defense of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk are most important—they are the gateway to the rest of the Donbas.
Unlike Severodonetsk, I do believe there’s a chance Ukraine can hold Lysychansk, but what’s most important is that Ukraine keep degrading Russian forces, whittling away at their combat power so that come August-September, there won’t be much left when Ukraine launches its promised counter-attack.
There are signs that Russia is already thinning itself to the point that it cannot hold much of its territory. Quite unexpectedly, perhaps even to Ukraine itself, the home team is rolling back Russian forces in southern Donbas.
Here’s the entire Donbas front, for context, with Lysychansk on the top right, and this newly liberated territory bottom center. It’s also a great way to get perspective to just how little Russia has advanced the past six weeks attempting to snip that tiny corner of Ukrainian-held territory around Severodonetsk.
From a land-mass perspective, Ukraine may have just gained as much land down there west of Donetsk, as Russia has gained north of Popasna.
Now, for all the shit I’ve given Russia for its inability to mass or focus its attacks, I’m loathe to give Ukraine a pass given counteroffensives around Kharkiv, Kherson, Izyum, and now south Donbas. How much more effective would Ukraine be if it massed some of this offensive firepower in a single region.
Maybe these advances are opportunistic, as Russia syphons forces away to support both the Popasna advance and Kherson’s defense. Both of those fronts have received reinforcements, and they had to come from somewhere. Henry Schlottman’s last heat map nearly two weeks ago certainly suggests an empty front.
Then again, this news hints at something more than just opportunistic localized tactical advances:
These are the heroes of Chernihiv, single-handedly holding off the Russian hordes at the border city northeast of Kyiv the first six weeks of the war, halting one of the prongs Russia needed to surround the capital. Now rested, instead of reinforcing Lysychansk, or Kharkiv, or Kherson, or Izyum, they’ve been sent to this corner of the war. It is quite the curious situation.
Unless Mariupol is the target, this territory has little strategic value for Ukraine. Ukrainian forces are still around 100 kilometers (60 miles) from that ill-fated port city, and Russia would certainly react fiercely if Ukraine seriously threatened it. Why commit critical armor to this front, when Kherson is the more valuable immediate prize?
Speaking of, something is brewing in Kherson, but there is an information blackout from Ukraine General Staff other than to say that they are “advancing.” Some sources claimed to have video of Ukrainian forces entering Kherson city, but that was ridiculous. Ukraine is still 10-15 kilometers away at the closest points, and the last confirmed progress I saw was further north, pushing Russians further back from Kryvyi Rih area. Here:
It sure would be nice to have the First Battalion of the First Tank Brigade helping push Russia out of Kherson Oblast. I really hope Ukraine doesn’t go down the same misbegotten path as Russia did, spreading combat power to thin and attacking in too many directions.
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