After months of intense fighting in what is now the frontlines of the war in Severodonetsk, the Ukrainian troops holding various defensive positions in the city have been forced to retreat, marking the end of the Battle for Severodonetsk.
Governor of the Luhansk Region Serhiy Gaidai has announced on Telegram earlier last Tuesday that the troops from Severodonetsk will be redeployed to areas wherein the Ukrainians have stronger defensive lines. He stated that the defensive positions within Severodonetsk have been “smashed to pieces” and that there was no point in holding the defensive positions any longer as their troops would be sitting ducks to the incoming advancing Russian forces. These Russian forces are believed to be units of the Russian 2nd Army Corps supported by the Russian National Guard(Rosgvardia) which is commanded personally by Putin as his own private army.
Gaidai further added that the troops have been ordered to withdraw and move to new positions, however, he did not reveal where they would be removed or if the troops had already displaced from their positions in the besieged city.
The resulting retreat from the Ukrainian forces marks a strategic victory for the Russian forces who have so far struggled to capture various areas in Ukraine since their invasion had started last February 24. To date, they have successfully captured the southern city of Kherson during their initial advance to Kyiv, and the bombarded port city of Mariupol, where the Ukrainian marines held out in the Azovstal Iron and Steelworks Plant for months prior to being ordered to surrender.
Ukrainian Special forces operators in Severodonetsk. pic.twitter.com/V6i0Ogj960
— WarMonitor🇺🇦 (@WarMonitor3) June 23, 2022
Gaidai also reported that over 90% of the houses in Severodonetsk were damaged and 80% of all these houses will have to be demolished after the war. This indicates that the city has suffered the same fate as the city of Mariupol, where virtually all houses and buildings had been destroyed due to the Russians’ usage of unguided, dumb bombs which rained on the Ukrainian skies onto the captured city.
SOFREP previously reported that the Russian forces destroyed all bridges connecting the city of Severodonetsk to Lysychansk and other areas west of the frontlines. Gaidai has stated that the destruction of the various bridges left their forces trapped within the city. While they still had access and capability to operate in the area, these abilities were severely hampered as there was no fast way to transport supplies, weapons, and reinforcements into the city. This is a factor that ultimately led the Ukrainian forces to fall back.
This leaves the question as to how they evacuated their men and their heavy weapons that were stationed in Severodonetsk. According to a report by The Telegraph, the Ukrainian forces were supplied with rafts after the bridges were destroyed, enabling the Ukrainians to retreat. However, this does not answer how they might have taken their heavy weaponry with them. It is possible that pontoon bridges were set up along the Siverskyi Donets River to get across, but this would take a lot of time to set up, which would leave them extremely vulnerable to Russian artillery attacks, ambushes, and airstrikes. In fact, this is what happened to the Russian forces when they tried to cross the river with the use of pontoon bridges, which left an entire Russian tank battalion destroyed, with hundreds of troops killed.
Furthermore, Gaidai did not mention the status of those Ukrainian troops currently held up in the Azot Chemical Plant in Severodonetsk. It was earlier reported that the plant was being held down by Ukrainian forces along with some civilians as the Russians continued to try and encircle them last week. Today, it has been reported that the city may have been encircled by the Russians, leaving the Ukrainian forces to retreat. However, SOFREP cannot determine whether the retreat included those currently held up in the Azot Chemical Plant. If the troops have not gotten out yet, then this may be another case similar to that of Mariupol’s Azovstal defenders, where the Ukrainian troops defended the steelworks plant with little food and ammunition for more than a few months.
Not good at all — Russians have made some dangerous territorial gains south of Lysychansk, getting further to closing the Zolote pocket and also threatening the Severodonetsk grouping’s rear.
The fight continues. pic.twitter.com/hU9JgvIUvH
— Illia Ponomarenko 🇺🇦 (@IAPonomarenko) June 21, 2022
Worse, the Ukrainians may be on the verge of losing the city of Lysychansk as Russian forces continued to advance successfully and managed to capture a couple of small settlements and areas. This includes Pidlisne, Myrna Dolyna, and Mykolaivka. Mykolaivka in particular is of special importance to Ukrainian forces as the village is known to be home to a supply route between Lysychansk and Bakhmut, which means getting supplies to troops holding out Lysychansk may prove to be another challenge. If that is the case, the Russians may move quickly to capture Lysychansk, the last Ukrainian city held by Ukrainian forces in Luhansk.
It is also important to note that Severodonetsk is the administrative capital of the Luhansk region, which means that the Russians are very close to capturing the entire region of Luhansk. Only Severodonetsk’s twin city, Lysychansk, stands in the way for Russia to claim one of their revised war goals as a success because they want to completely “liberate” the two oblasts that comprise the Donbas region which is Luhansk and Donetsk.
The envelopment of Russian forces threatens to cut off an unknown number of Ukrainian troops in a salient that would force their surrender or annihilation. If think the Ukrainians have sense enough to either withdraw these troops or attack and destroy one of the encircling arms before these Russian units can link up and close the pocket.
As of today, the office of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Strategic Communication division states,
“Severodonetsk axis: the occupiers fired artillery at the vicinities of settlements of Lysychansk, Spirne, and Vovchoyarivka. Launched an air strike in the vicinity of Lysychansk and attempted to block the city from the south. In order to displace our units, the enemy carried out assault operations in the vicinities of settlements of Metyolkine, Syrotyne, and Voronove.”
There is no official mention by the Armed Forces of Ukraine of the withdrawal of these troops.
Russian state media has already been riding on these victories by Russian forces, where pro-Russian officials have described the advances to be “colossal” over the past few days. They also claimed that Lysychansk was already surrounded, however, we are unable to verify these claims as of writing.