Perched on excessive floor throughout the river from the bigger metropolis of Severodonetsk, the city of Lysychansk has performed a essential function during the last two months of the battle in japanese Ukraine. When Russian forces pressed into Severodonetsk in Could, they appeared to assume taking the town can be a cakewalk. Not solely did Russia nearly instantly declare to have management over that metropolis, Kadyrov’s Chechen TikTok brigade even issued a video, filmed who is aware of the place, that claimed to indicate the residents of Severodonetsk greeting their Russian occupiers with “hugs and kisses.”
However when Russian forces really strolled into Severodonesk over the following few days, they received a giant shock. They received their heat hug. From massed artillery. Inside days, greater than two-thirds of Severodonetsk was again in Ukrainian management.
Over the next month, Ukraine surrendered the town block by block as Russia introduced increasingly more forces into the world. Ukrainian forces lastly withdrew from Severodonetsk within the final week of June, however they did so in an orderly vogue, getting troops again throughout the river and leaving little behind when it comes to arms or different tools. Ukraine misplaced the town, however it wasn’t a route. Each the injury that Russian took in attempting to seize Severodonetsk, and the cautious manner wherein Ukraine was capable of get each civilians and army forces out forward of the ultimate Russian advance, was due to the weapons wanting down from Lysychansk.
With steep hills alongside the south and sharp bluffs dealing with the river, Lysychansk was the right place to host Ukraine’s lengthy weapons, together with M777 howitzers freshly arrived from the US. From that place, artillery couldn’t simply hearth down on Russian forces trying to maneuver alongside the town’s streets, it might “attain out and contact” Russia’s personal heavy weaponry a number of kilometers north and west of the town.
Lysychansk’s place, far out on the tip of the Ukrainian salient within the Luhansk, made it doable to fireplace at forces throughout the river to the north, or approaching from Popasna to the south. Although a reported three M777s have been misplaced, day by day the NASA FIRMS maps gave the identical report—Lysychansk was dealing out a lot extra injury than it was receiving. From Lysychansk, Ukraine was capable of repeatedly hit Russian batteries working on the far facet of Rubizhne and round Kreminna to the north. The toll of these weapons is unlikely to ever be know. However it was excessive.
Nevertheless, the identical factor that made Lysychansk such a invaluable place—the way it juts out in an space surrounded by Russian management on three sides—is now making it extraordinarily susceptible.
Alongside the east facet of the city, the Siverski Donets River runs laborious towards a sequence of excessive bluffs, making any strategy from Severodonestk tough. On the south finish of the town are steep hills, some wooded, some clustered with buildings, made that strategy tough. Each woods and buildings created places that have been tailored for ambushes, and the hills have been already assured to gradual an advance lengthy sufficient to herald extra withering artillery hearth.
Nevertheless, during the last month, Russia has occupied over 1,500km2 in Ukraine. A large a part of that acquire got here when Russian forces pushed by the Ukrainian line of defense at Toshkiva and moved swiftly to seize a sequence of cities and villages south and southwest of Lysychansnk. Over the weekend, Russian forces moved up these steeps hills on the south facet, bringing the battle inside the streets of the town. On the similar time, Russian forces seem to have crossed the river to the north and are urgent down towards Novodruzhesk.
Most critically, Russian forces have been preventing it out with Ukrainian troops within the oil refinery and related vegetation at Verkhnokamyanka, southwest of Lysychansk. From this place, Russian troops are threatening to maneuver into the town alongside a significant freeway, and will lower off any forces nonetheless holding the southern strategy. Lysychansk is in a vice and, good artillery place it could be, it’s not price the price of remaining.
On Thursday, Ukrainian forces gave the impression to be doing the cheap factor and withdrawing from the world. Experiences are that heavy tools has been shifting west alongside the highway previous Bilhorivka (web site of that Russian river crossing catastrophe). Each artillery and troops are reportedly digging in close to Siversk, about 20km west of Lysychansk.
This is smart, as Siversk is nearly straight north of Bakhmut, the place Ukrainian troops have been pushing again tried Russian advances for over a month. Bakhmut is a essential junction for each highways and rail. Many of the provides that had gone to Lysychansk and Severdonetsk flowed by there. Now Bakhmut and Siversk look to be Ukraine’s new line of protection within the east.
Russia’s actual targets within the space are the cities of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, positioned about 30km west of that Silversk-Bakhmut line. There’s not only a freeway between Siversk and Bakhmut, however a nonetheless functioning rail line. For now, a minimum of, males and materiel can transfer swiftly alongside that line. There’s no giant river or line of bluffs to fall again behind, nonetheless there’s a vary of hills that looms up on the west facet of each Siversk and Bakhmut. Don’t be shocked if Ukrainian weapons transfer to the highest of these hills whereas Ukrainian troops dig in to guard the cities beneath.
To date, Russian forces trying to strategy Slovyansk and Kramatorsk alongside the western route, from the Russian focus of models at Izyum, have been pushed again many times round Dolyna, about 20km to the northwest. That’s more likely to stay the essential place on the western edge, as there’s no different nice line of strategy until Russia intends to return to sq. one and try a a lot bigger swing to the west.
As Ukrainian forces pull again from Lysychansk and reform alongside the brand new line, what has been an extremely punishing artillery warfare might turn into even worse, with either side firing into rather more concentrated positions. As far as Luhansk goes, that slice between Dolyna on one facet, and Siversk-Bakhmut on the opposite, is the entire ball recreation for Russian ambitions.
Ukraine has new weapons available, together with HIMARS and different MLRS, in addition to a group of artillery rolled in by NATO members. Russia has been shedding forces at an amazing price, and there have been talks of depleted battle teams and waning morale stretching again weeks. The check forward goes to be super … however Lysychansk has performed its half.
Ukraine will see it once more, when its forces are going the opposite manner.