Russian forces gain upper-hand in eastern part of Ukraine


As Russian forces are advancing in an advantageous way in eastern Ukraine, the Western maximum-pressure campaign against Moscow is facing its toughest test. According to Associated Press report, Severodonetsk, the last Ukrainian stronghold in the Luhansk region that sits just across the river from nearby Lysychansk, is being pounded by Russian airstrikes and artillery fire. “There are battles on the outskirts of the city. Massive artillery shelling does not stop, day and night”, Severodonetsk mayor Oleksandr Stryuk said.

“The city is being systematically destroyed – 90 percent of the buildings in the city are damaged”, he added.

Russian troops have advanced on the city from three directions since early May in an attempt to trap the Ukrainian forces located in the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk salient. Officials belonging to the pro-Russian breakaway Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) told Russian news outlet RIA on Friday that Severodonetsk is now fully encircled.

“At the moment, in the city of Severodonetsk, in the city itself [and not on the outskirts], the retreat paths of Ukrainian troops are cut off, because there are three bridges there that they could have used to leave. One bridge was destroyed, the second will not support any equipment because it’s in dire condition, and the [third] Proletarian Bridge is controlled by our forces. Anyone who tries to leave the settlement will be destroyed”, said LPR military spokesman Andrei Marochko. “We cut off all routes through which they could escape, and we control, surveil, absolutely the entire territory… if they want to return to their loved ones, they need to make the right decision”, Marochko added.

The siege of Severodonetsk comes on the heels of steady Russian advances in the Donbass over the past month. Russian forces control almost the entire Donbass region and several surrounding areas, effectively depriving Ukraine not only of its industrial heartland but also of some of its biggest wheat-producing regions. The Russian military reportedly occupies most of the southeastern Zaporizhchia region, with only the administrative city of Zaporizhzhia and adjacent farmlands remaining in the hand of Ukrainian forces and their neo-Nazi cohorts. To the southwest, Russian forces appear firmly in control of the Kherson region.

And, Ukrainian troops are already feeling devastated and most of them are refusing to fight against the mighty Russian army and they are expressing willingness of surrendering en masse. In a video uploaded to Telegram on May 24, members of the 115th Brigade 3rd Battalion, based in Severodonetsk, announced that they will no longer fight due to a lack of military equipment and proper leadership. “We are being sent to certain death [by Zelensky]”, said one of the volunteers, as per The Washington Post. “We are not alone like this, we are many”.

The government of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has largely kept Ukrainian casualty numbers a secret in an effort to bolster morale, instead pivoting international attention to the losses sustained by Russia over the course of the invasion. The Russian Defense Ministry said this week that Kiev is writing off Ukrainian soldiers lost in combat as “deserters”, an accounting trick used to keep official casualty figures low. “On Ukrainian TV we see that there are no losses … there’s no truth”, Ukrainian officer Serhi Lapko told The Washington Post.

According to another source, Zelensky and few of his top aides currently are assessing the situation and even considering two options before Kiev goes under control of the Russian forces. Zelensky may offer peace-talks with Russia or he may flee Ukraine along with few of his key aides.

Another source said, Zelensky is secretly asking some western nations to make necessary arrangements for his “urgent evacuation” in case of necessity.

The Russian forces, buoyed by a slate of logistical, numerical, and qualitative advantages, are forging ahead with their strategy of encircling pockets of Ukrainian troops while choking off major Ukrainian-held cities from supplies and reinforcements. Russian troops outnumber their Ukrainian counterparts seven to one in the war’s eastern theater, according to senior Ukrainian officials. “The Russian side managed to gather its reserves before we did. We’re lagging behind, which makes the situation at the front extremely difficult,” admitted Ukrainian presidential advisor Oleksiy Arestovych.

Former US secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger warned in Davos that the Western campaign to “inflict a crushing defeat” on Moscow poses fatal risks to European and global stability. “Negotiations need to begin in the next two months before it creates upheavals and tensions that will not be easily overcome. Ideally, the dividing line should be a return to the status quo ante”, he said, suggesting that Ukraine should at least tacitly acknowledge Russia’s control over Crimea and the status of the pro-Russian separatist Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republic (DPR and LPR) in Donbass.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration—which has invested US$53 billion in aid to ensure Ukraine’s victory—and like-minded Western governments appear intent on staying the course. But military analysts said, Ukraine’s victory over the mighty Russian army is a mission impossible. “Kiev would be the second humiliation for Joe Biden following his retreat from Afghanistan.


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