With the 100th day of the war in Ukraine passing, the battle rages on to obtain complete control of Severodonetsk as the Russians make small gains in the east. Russian and Ukrainian troops remain in fierce fighting in the city, an area that is now mostly controlled by Russian forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has admitted that the Russian invasion in the east had been partially successful, with 20% of Ukraine’s territory (some 48,262 sq. miles or 125,000 sq. km) now under Russian control. According to several reports, some 115,830 sq miles (300,000 sq. km) of Ukrainian soil is littered with mines and unexploded ordnances (UXOs).
“As of today, about 20 percent of our territory is under the control of the occupiers. Almost 125 thousand square kilometers. This is much larger than the area of all the Benelux Countries combined,” he said during his speech to the lawmakers in Luxembourg.
For comparison, Russia holds as much land mass as the state of Mississippi, which measures 48,430 sq. miles (125,443 sq. km). It is also comparable to Pennsylvania at 46,055 sq. miles (119,282 sq. km). When compared to European countries, it would cover the landmass of both Austria and Switzerland, or 55% of the United Kingdom. Needless to say, 20% is not ignorable and is a substantial portion of Ukraine.
This estimation reportedly included the 2014-annexed Crimea and portions of Donbas that Russia has long supported, namely the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republic,” which nobody from the international community recognizes.
He also added that some 12 million Ukrainians had become internally displaced due to the continued Russian shelling. More than 5 million Ukrainians, mostly women and children, have reportedly gone abroad. As many as 600,000 Ukrainians may have been forcibly removed by the Russian army and relocated inside Russia itself
More so, the Russians have been making small but important gains in Eastern Ukraine. They have reportedly been pushing toward Ukraine’s de facto administrative center in the east, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk in Donetsk. Fighting has been particularly intense in Severodonetsk in Luhansk. If the city falls, together with another nearby city of Lysychansk, the Russians will now control the entirety of Luhansk.
If they manage to control Luhansk, they will be one step nearer to their revised invasion goal, which is to completely “liberate” the entirety of the Donbas region. Currently, the Russians control 70% of Severodonetsk, which does mean that the Ukrainian forces are in a bit of trouble in that area.
This information is confirmed not only by western sources but also by pro-Russian sources. Head of the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) Leonid Pasechnik claimed that the LNR controls all Luhansk Oblast except for Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.
The battle for #Severodonetsk continues.
— Canadian Ukrainian Volunteer 🇺🇦🇨🇦✊🏻 (@CanadianUkrain1) June 3, 2022
According to the Institute for the Study of War, the Russians continue to face challenges due to the terrain in Donbas. They cannot cross the Siverskyi Donets River to complete the encirclement of Severodonetsk-Lysychansk. This is because they have already tried crossing the river multiple times, with the most publicized being the instance wherein they lost 100 Russian tanks and armored vehicles. They want to continue crossing so that they can continue pushing westward of Lyman towards Slovyansk.
While the main effort is currently focused on Luhansk, Russian forces continue to shell Ukrainian positions using rockets and artillery in Donetsk. They are reportedly slow-moving. Western intel and military analysts say that even if the Russians do succeed in taking Luhansk, they will not have enough manpower to take Donetsk with Ukrainians on the counter-offensives both in the east and in the south, where Ukrainians have been making small progress in Russian-held Kherson.
Russia will be forced to send troops to Kherson to fortify its positions as Kherson was occupied at the early onset of the war. This means that conscripts still occupy the area and may lack the military knowledge to deal with a counter-attack.
More so, the Russians are reportedly forcing their troops again to fight, which reveals a significant morale problem that still persists after 100 days of the war. According to intel reports, troops from the Donetsk People’s Republic (who serve under Russia’s 8th Combined Arms Army) are being forced to mobilize. This means that they really do not want to fight, likely because they are armed with old Mosin-Nagant rifles, as previously reported, and because of the logistics problems that have been plaguing the Russians since their invasion began.
As proof of these forced mobilizations, SOFREP found a video of the 113th Regiment of the DNR pleading to Russian President Vladimir Putin last June 2. In the video, the soldiers complain about not having food or medicine in Kherson. They also said they were hungry and were thrown into the fight without proper weapons. They subsequently asked Putin to send them back to Donetsk.
Video from pro-Russian Telegram: DNR 113th regiment complains to Putin they’ve been fighting on the front in Kherson region “in hunger and cold;” no meds. They say they’re thrown to the slaughter without proper weapons, and ask to return to Donetsk, to stop mobilization there. pic.twitter.com/jLDTil2nmK
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) June 2, 2022
Despite the Russians gaining ground in Ukraine, Zelensky remains positive about the whole situation. The Ukrainians have taken back 20 small towns and villages in Kherson. The war has turned into a slugfest of artillery shells hitting each other’s positions, with both sides digging trenches in what seems to be a throwback to World War I.
“We have been defending Ukraine for 100 days already. Victory will be ours,” Zelensky said.
“Nobody expected Ukrainians to have courage of this magnitude. But this magnitude is there. And this quality of our character, our willingness to fight for freedom and for our values – and these are the common values of all free Europeans – is now based on the support we have received from our partners,” he added.