Ukraine, after a string of victories in the northeast, is now poised at the gateway to the eastern Donbass region and may have the best chance yet to drive out Russian forces that have expanded their control over the region after brutal fighting this summer. Lyschanskwhich just three months ago fell into the hands of the Russians in a demoralizing setback for how, the next major city in Ukraine’s landmarks could be.
Even the battle to retake Lyschansk is conceivable showing how much the tables have turned in the east in the few weeks since Ukraine launched a surprise counterattack in the northeastern Kharkiv region. The relative speed of their victories is in stark contrast to the grinding Russian offensive during the summer in the Donbass.
“The offensive movement of our army and all our defenders continued,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an optimistic speech last night, in which he said that 450 settlements had been restored in Kharkiv. “There are new liberated settlements in several areas.”
“Heavy fighting continues in many areas of the front,” he said.
Over the weekend, Ukraine recaptured the city of Lyman, a strategic rail hub in northern Donetsk, one of two regions that make up Donbass, and continued pressing east towards Lysechhansk.
To seize Lysychansk and its sister Sievierodonetsk – both located in northern Luhansk, the other region that includes Donbass – Russia bombarded Ukrainian forces with artillery for weeks before street fighting eventually forced Ukraine’s withdrawal. Before the fall of Lyman, the town was gradually besieged by Ukrainian soldiers, and it fell last week after that Just days of intense fighting.
Analysts point to Ukraine’s success in cutting off Russian supply routes as key to its momentum. With Russia’s expulsion from Kharkiv last month, it lost control of its rail hub at Izyum, making it difficult for Moscow to resupply its forces south in Donbas and leaving it vulnerable.
Ukrainian soldiers faced starving and ill-equipped Russian forces, some with few weapons to defend themselves.
The Russian military will likely face a decision on diverting resources from other parts of the front to slow Ukraine’s advance or risk losing more ground in the Donbass. Some of the closest Russian reinforcements are located about 25 miles southeast of Lyman, around the Ukrainian-controlled city of Pakhmut. The Wagner Group, a notorious paramilitary unit directly affiliated with the Kremlin, struck the Ukrainian defenders there but failed to capture the city.
But the question remains how long the Ukrainian momentum can last. In recent days, some Ukrainian soldiers in Kharkiv Province have spoken of fatigue after weeks of continuous fighting.
Ben Barry, a senior fellow in land warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said progress would likely reach a “peak point” beyond which it would be difficult to sustain the offensive because forces would need to rotate and resupply.
Ukraine’s gains did not mitigate the danger to civilians, as the fighting continued to cause casualties. a a caravan of people Ukrainian authorities said that those fleeing Svatov in Luhansk had been attacked in recent days, killing 24 people, including 13 children. The firing of a Russian shell on Monday at a hospital in the Kobyansk region of the Kharkiv region killed a doctor and wounded two nurses, according to the head of its military department Oleh Sinihopov.
Russia’s losses on the battlefield came even as Moscow claimed that four Ukrainian regions where heavy fighting continues are now part of Russia, a move that was met with widespread international derision. On Tuesday, the Russian state news agency TASS reported that the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, approved a law to annex Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as two provinces in southern Ukraine, Kherson and Zaporizhia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to sign off on the law, which comes after referendums in provinces that Ukraine and its Western partners have denounced as sham.
Mr Zelensky said on Tuesday that, given Russia’s “attempt to annex territory”, he had approved a resolution of the country’s Security Council on the “impossibility of negotiations” with Mr Putin.
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