Amid intensified fighting in Eastern Ukraine’s Severodonetsk, the Russians have gained some traction in invading the city by destroying the bridges connecting the city to western areas of Ukraine. In effect, this also cuts off the last remaining routes for civilian evacuations from the city, drawing parallels to the southern port city of Mariupol, where the Russians gained full control of the city last month.

Luhansk Regional Governor Serhiy Gaidai revealed that the last bridge to Severodonetsk had been destroyed, trapping Ukrainian forces and Severodonetsk residents within the city. He did, however, say that the city was not surrounded by Russian forces, which enables Ukrainian forces to still operate in the area, albeit at a limited capacity as military access to the city has been restrained due to the damage to roads and bridges.

“It is now fully impossible, unfortunately, to drive into the city, to deliver something to the city. Evacuation is impossible,” Gaidai stated. Furthermore, he reported through Telegram that Ukraine still remains in control of several portions of the city, but it was no longer possible to transport humanitarian cargoes to the Ukrainian-held cities. They may use helicopters to transport these goods to the residents of the city. However, these helicopters might get shot down as Russians control the majority of Severodonetsk.

“The situation in Sievierodonetsk is extremely aggravated – the Russians are destroying high-rise buildings and Azot,” Gaidai added.

SOFREP reported last June 4 that some 20% of Ukrainian territory has fallen into Russian control. This translates to some 48,262 square miles (125,000 square km). This estimate reportedly includes Crimea, which was annexed in 2014, and portions of Donbas that had been in Russian control prior to the 2022 invasion (Russian-occupied Donetsk and Luhansk).

During that time, the Russians reportedly controlled 70% of Severodonetsk. Head of the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic, Leonid Pasechnik, also reported that they held control of the entire Luhansk Oblast except for Severodonetsk and nearby Lysychansk. If the two cities are captured, Russia succeeds in one of its war goals to “liberate” the Donbas region comprised of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Military analysts at that time stated that the Russian forces would not have enough manpower to take Donetsk as they too were showing signs of running out of munitions and morale among their troops. Recent news now indicates that the Russians have gained success in the fighting by raining artillery on the Ukrainian forces.

Current intel reports from the Institute for the Study of War indicate that the Russians have pushed the Ukrainian forces out from the center of Severodonetsk. The last bridge connecting the Ukrainian troops to Lysychansk was destroyed on June 13. They reiterate that Russian forces have not captured the city fully as Russia refrains from committing to a push.

This is because Russia continues to send “volunteer” and reserve forces to the frontlines as it did during the initial advance to Kyiv. They failed to capture Kyiv during the first push into Ukraine not just because of supply issues but because Russian conscripts were lied to and forced to fight, leading to more declines in morale. The Russian forces, who have suffered mass losses themselves, continue this practice, as evidenced by Russian-sponsored news outlet Izvestia publishing footage showing reservists being sent to Ukraine after 10 days of training.

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These reservists had undergone training using old D-20 howitzers and learning how to operate small arms. This shows that the Russian reserves barely know how to fire hand-held weapons and are likely going to face technical challenges upon being sent to the frontlines. Footage has also surfaced on social media that Russian volunteer units were being transported to Belgorod on June 9 using T-80BV tanks and BMP-1 personnel carriers.

Battle map assessing Russian-held areas and advances in the Donbas region. Severodonetsk is found on the upper right side (Study of War). Source:
Battle map assessing Russian-held areas and advances in the Donbas region. Severodonetsk is found on the upper right side (Study of War/Twitter)

SOFREP recently reported that Ukraine had been losing ground to the Ukrainians due to continued Russian shelling, losing over 200 men per day as they get outgunned by Russia’s artillery, which has notably longer ranges. The number of deaths reported significantly increased from the estimated 60 to 100 Ukrainian men killed per day.

This is because Russia has 20 artillery for every 1 Ukrainian artillery and a further disparity in terms of ammunition where the Russians have a 40 to 1 advantage. Furthermore, Ukrainian artillery only has a range of 15.5 miles, while Russian artillery can attack them from 12 times the distance.

This does not mean the Russians are fully steaming ahead with their advance. They still face fierce Ukrainian resistance, albeit with some morale issues. Russian forces tried to attack areas south of Lysychansk to take out Ukrainian ground lines of communications and failed. They were met with Ukrainian defensive positions that were too overwhelming in the settlement of Vrubika near the Lysychansk-Bakhmut T1302 highway. They also tried to attack areas such as Zolote, Kodema, and Novoluhanske, among others, all of which were unsuccessful.

The war continues to oscillate back and forth between Ukrainians and Russians, with no side apparently getting an advantage due to their respective challenges within their operations. It cannot be denied that Russia has had the upper hand recently, especially in Severodonetsk. However, this does not mean Ukraine is down for the count.