In recent days, the Russians have advanced into several villages south of Lysychansk, though not without losses from Ukrainian artillery fire. In fact, the Ukrainian military claims that some Russian battalion tactical groups are consolidating or withdrawing to restore their combat capabilities.
The settlements that Ukrainian authorities confirmed as lost on Wednesday are all on the west bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, 10 kilometers from the southern outskirts of the city.
“The Russians are closing in on Lysychansk, entrenching themselves in nearby towns. The city is being bombarded by planes,” according to Serhiy Hayday, head of the Lugansk regional military administration.
Hayday acknowledged that it was “difficult” in the area south of Lysychansk. “The enemy entered Toshkivka, which allowed him to increase 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 is not easy for our soldiers to maintain defense,” he admitted.
Throughout its campaign, Russia has used the tactic of heavy bombardment before attempting to take territory. Hayday’s comments suggest that the Ukrainian defenses around Lysychansk have begun to give way to much larger Russian firepower after weeks of bombardment.
Ukrainian forces continue to fight on the outskirts of the neighboring city of Severodonetsk and in adjacent communities, benefiting from higher ground in Lysychansk.
But their already compromised supply lines are becoming more tenuous, and the sheer magnitude of Russian firepower is weakening defensive positions.
The attacks near Lysychansk are being carried out in conjunction with Russia’s renewed efforts to cut off the road leading west to Bakhmut, a critical line of communication for the Ukrainians. In some places, the Russian forces are only a few kilometers from the road.
The Ukrainian defense of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk has drained the firepower of many Russian units and slowed their efforts to advance into the neighboring Donetsk region. However, the Russians can still draw on reserves held in nearby areas of southwestern Russia, while some of Ukraine’s best units are seriously depleted by months of missile, rocket, artillery and air strikes.
But if the Ukrainians decide to dig in around Lysychansk, Russia is likely to require substantial efforts, possibly for weeks, to take it. By then, it may resemble the partially razed cities of Severodonetsk, near Popasna and Mariupol.