Why Capture of Severodonetsk is so Important and What to Expect from Storming of Lisichansk

Why Capture of Severodonetsk is so Important and What to Expect from Storming of Lisichansk

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We wanted the best, but it turned out to be a bloody Club of the Funny and Inventive. The surrender of Severodonetsk led to serious tension between President Zelensky's office and the AFU command. The last Ukrainian soldiers escaped from Severodonetsk by swimming across the Seversky Donets River to the other side, to Lysychansk.

After gaining control of Severodonetsk, on the night of June 26-27, the Russian Armed Forces, together with the LPR People's Militia, attacked Lysychansk, the last major city in the Luhansk Region that remained under Kiev's control, from five directions at once.

“Soon we to Fight in Carpathians”

The loss of Severodonetsk was a serious image blow for Zelensky and the Office of the President, who demanded to hold the formal capital of the Luhansk Region at all costs. Russian units entered Severodonetsk back in early June, but the Armed Forces of Ukraine held positions in the industrial zone, particularly in the underground shelters of the Azot plant, until the last days.

The situation around Severodonetsk was described by the AFU General Staff as a “withdrawal of our troops.” “After the withdrawal of our troops, the enemy will consolidate its positions in the areas of Severodonetsk, Sirotino, Voronovo, and Borovskoye,” says an official report from the AFU General Staff. The last three are settlements near Severodonetsk, located on the left bank of the Seversky Donets.

The fact that the Ukrainian military and foreign mercenaries left the city was confirmed by the mayor of Severodonetsk, Alexander Struk. “The city is completely under Russian occupation. Let's hope that Severodonetsk will return under Ukrainian control as soon as possible,” said the Ukrainian mayor.

The fact that Severodonetsk had been taken was also confirmed by the head of the Luhansk Regional Military and Civil Administration, Sergei Gaidai, who might soon turn into a “governor without a governorate.”

“Severodonetsk is occupied. After the withdrawal of units of our troops, the enemy is entrenched in the regional center of Severodonetsk and satellite villages Sirotino, Voronovo and Borovskoye,” Gaidai wrote in his Telegram channel. By the way, the other day he gave an interview to Ukrainian Forbes under the prophetic heading “If we retreat everywhere, we will soon be fighting in the Carpathians.”

In his daily video address, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky listed Severodonetsk among other towns that he promised to definitely return to Kiev's control, indirectly admitting that the AFU no longer controls it.

Prior to the outbreak of hostilities, there were approximately 100,000 people living in Severodonetsk. Since 2014, after the proclamation of the Luhansk People's Republic, Severodonetsk has been the capital of Luhansk Region, which is under Kiev's control.

The interesting thing about Severodonetsk is that it seamlessly transitions into another significant city, Lisichansk, forming together with them the Severodonetsk-Lisichansk agglomeration, where the total population was about 343,000 people before the outbreak of hostilities. Severodonetsk stands on the left bank of the Seversky Donets, while Lysychansk, which had about 97,000 inhabitants, is on the high right bank.

Lysychansk in Operational Encirclement

Militarily, the capture of Severodonetsk is a direct threat to encircle Lysychansk. Control of Severodonetsk and the surrounding villages means encircling Lysychansk from the northeast, while the Center group of troops under Colonel General Alexander Lapin is advancing on the last major city of the Luhansk Region from the south.

This is in fact confirmed by the General Staff of the AFU, which reported in its June 26 report on the enemy's attack on Lysychansk from the south. “In the Donetsk direction, the enemy, supported by artillery, is attempting to blockade the town of Lysychansk from the south,” says a report from the AFU General Staff.

Without delay, units of the Russian Armed Forces and LPR People's Militia attacked Lysychansk in five directions on the night of June 27. Since even the Ukrainian media referred to Lysychansk as “the last fortress of Luhansk Region,” the fall of this city would be very symbolic. According to open sources, there are between 5,000 and 9,000 Ukrainian soldiers, fighters from nationalist battalions and foreign mercenaries in Lysychansk. As for the civilians, according to Vitaly Shibiko, head of the military administration of Lysychansk, there are about 12,000 of the city's nearly 100,000-strong population, and most of them refuse to evacuate. Moreover, as reported by journalists from the French television channel France 2, the residents of Lysychansk accused the Ukrainian Armed Forces of shelling on camera and added that they were waiting for the Russians as liberators. It was obvious that the employees of France 2 were shocked by what they heard from the remaining residents of Lysychansk.

After Severodonetsk was taken, according to the information from the Ukranian sources, Lysychansk was in an operational encirclement, which means that the enemy was blockaded in a particular settlement, the main supply routes were cut off, but there was still the possibility of “back-pedal.” In contrast to a tactical encirclement, a tactical encirclement means that the enemy is completely blocked, as the Germans led by Paulus at Stalingrad. That is, all possible escape routes are either blocked or under heavy fire.

By today, the important Bakhmut - Lysychansk (Artemovsk - Lysychansk) highway has not been passable for several days, because it is under heavy fire from the Russian Armed Forces and LPR armed units. On June 26, LPR armed units entered the industrial zone of Lysychansk from the southern side. This information is confirmed by military correspondents. Komsomolskaya Pravda war correspondent Aleksandr Kots reported in his Telegram channel that “enemy positions at the Lysychansk gelatin factory are identified using copters and covered with artillery.” Semyon Pegov (Wargonzo) posted a video from Nikolaevka which is east of Lysychansk, which is occupied by LPR forces. Pegov explained that Nikolaevka “is of strategic importance for fire control over the Seversk - Lisichansk highway.”

Zelensky’s Tale

The story of Severodonetsk/Lysychansk is important because it directly affects the internal dynamics within the Ukrainian government and the AFU command. From this point of view, the capture of Severodonetsk is a very symbolic event. The symbolism lies in the fact that Severodonetsk has been the administrative capital of Luhansk Region since 2014. To be more precise, the part of Luhansk Region that remained under the control of official Kiev, as opposed to the unrecognized Luhansk People's Republic that controlled Luhansk.

Severodonetsk is also notable in the modern history because in November 2004 the political and economic elites of the southeast held their famous congress in this city, where slogans about the possible secession of Donbass from Ukraine and the proclamation of the South-Eastern Ukrainian Autonomous Republic were heard. Supporters of Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych held the event under the official title “All-Ukrainian Congress of Deputies of all levels” as a response to the start of the “Orange Maidan” and statements by regional councils in Western Ukraine that they would not obey President Yanukovych.

Among Russia's top politicians, then-Mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov spoke at the congress, remembering with a strange phrase that he was “ready to take off his favorite cap to look like Viktor Yanukovich.”

It was at the Ice Palace in Severodonetsk that the chairman of the Kharkiv regional administration Evgeniy Kushnarev said that “there is no need to test our patience” and that “we have a decent response to any attack of the “Oranges” led by Yushchenko “we have a decent response, up to the most extreme measures. I want to remind the hotheads under the orange banners: there are 480 kilometers from Kharkiv to Kyiv and 40 kilometers to the border with Russia!”

The loss of Severodonetsk is fraught with an aggravation of the conflict between President Vladimir Zelensky's entourage and Valery Zaluzhny, the commander-in-chief of the AFU. The fact is that Zelensky, together with the leadership of the Presidential Office, began to interfere more and more actively in the leadership of the Armed Forces. We wanted the best... but it turned out to be Severodonetsk.

On the eve of the events described above, Zaluzhny proposed that Ukrainian troops retreat from Severodonetsk and neighboring settlements and fortify along the banks of the Seversky Donets River. However, this proposal did not please the Office of the President, where they are used to reporting about “peremoga” (which means “victory” in Ukrainian). As a result, the AFU remained in Severodonetsk, where they had to withstand the assault of Russian troops, the LPR People's Militia, as well as volunteers and the Wagner Group. When things got really bad, special forces and foreign mercenaries were moved to Severodonetsk at the last minute. Even the special forces and mercenaries were unable to contain the situation. For a few days, the Ukrainian military managed to gain a foothold in the industrial zone of Severodonetsk. On the evening of June 25, both the General Staff and the mayor of Severodonetsk were forced to admit that the AFU was no longer in control of the city. As a result, the Office of the President, led by Zelensky, suffered a crushing defeat in this dispute with Valery Zaluzhny, the commander-in-chief of the AFU.

Especially since the story with another “peremoga” just ended in a loud fiasco. The President's office had long demanded a “peremoga” from the AFU command, so at the end of May they organized a counterattack in the northwest of the Kherson region near the village of Davydov Brod. The Ukrainian military, supported by about 20 infantry fighting vehicles and tanks, advanced from the Nikolayevka region in the direction of Kherson through a clear field. Here they were hit all together by Russian artillery. As the AFU officers themselves complain, there was no point in this action, except for political PR, so that the spokesmen of the Presidential Office could tell on TV about the “counter-offensive of the AFU” and the “peremoga.” Dozens of corpses of the Ukrainian military, according to them, are still lying in the field among the burnt-out equipment. As we can see, a similar story happened in Severodonetsk. Right now, Lysychansk is being stormed, and if it is lost, Ukraine will lose control over all major settlements in the Luhansk Region.

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