Over the past two days, the Russians have advanced through several villages south of Lysychansk, not without suffering casualties from Ukrainian artillery fire. Indeed, the Ukrainian army claims that some Russian battalion tactical groups are being consolidated or withdrawn to restore their combat capabilities.
The settlements that Ukrainian officials confirmed lost on Wednesday are all on the west bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, less than 10 kilometers from the southern outskirts of the city.
“The Russians are approaching Lysychansk, entrenching themselves in nearby towns. The town is bombarded by planes,” said Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk regional military administration.
Hayday acknowledged that it was “difficult” in the region south of Lysychansk. “The enemy entered Toshkivka, which allowed him to increase the fire on other settlements.”
He said Russian forces were entrenched in several villages immediately south of Lysychansk, including Ustynivka, Pidlisne and Myrna Dolyna, and were advancing towards Bila Hora. “It’s not easy for our soldiers to keep the defense,” he admitted.
Throughout its campaign, Russia used the tactic of intense bombardment before attempting to take territory. Hayday’s comments suggest that the Ukrainian defenses around Lysychansk have begun to succumb to much greater Russian firepower after weeks of shelling.
Ukrainian forces continue to fight on the fringes of nearby Severodonetsk and in adjacent communities – and they benefit from higher ground in Lysychansk.
But their already compromised supply lines are becoming more tenuous, and the sheer scale of Russian firepower is overwhelming defensive positions.
The attacks near Lysychansk are being carried out in parallel with renewed Russian efforts to cut off the highway that runs west to Bakhmut, a critical line of communication for the Ukrainians. In some places, the Russian forces are a few kilometers from the highway.
The Ukrainian defense of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk consumed the firepower of many Russian units and blunted their efforts to advance into the neighboring Donetsk region. However, the Russians can still call on reserves held in neighboring areas of southwestern Russia – while some of Ukraine’s best units are seriously depleted by months of missile, rocket, artillery and air attacks .
But if the Ukrainians decide to dig around Lysychansk, it will likely take considerable Russian effort, possibly weeks, to take it. At that time, it may look like the partially razed towns of Severodonetsk near Popasna and Mariupol.