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A house destroyed by shelling in Lysychansk. June 2022.
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Closing in on Lysychansk Ukrainian positions in Luhansk region under increasing pressure as Russian forces gradually advance

Source: Meduza
A house destroyed by shelling in Lysychansk. June 2022.
A house destroyed by shelling in Lysychansk. June 2022.
Aris Messins / AFP / Scanpix / LETA

The situation in Ukraine’s Luhansk region is “extremely difficult,” Governor Serhiy Haidai said in an interview on Thursday, June 23. Russia has captured most of the region and, according to Haidai, sent “all reserves” to storm Severodonetsk and the Zolote–Toshkivka area south of Lysychansk. 

Russian forces advancing from Toshkivka, which was captured earlier, took control of the villages of Rai-Oleksandrivka and Loskutivka on Wednesday, Haidai said. Judging by the Institute for the Study of War’s assessment, Russian troops are now on the verge of encircling Ukrainian positions in the towns of Zolote and Hirske. 

The Kremlin-controlled “Luhansk People’s Militia” claimed that Ukrainian forces in these towns were already “fully encircled” on Wednesday. In turn, pro-Kremlin Telegram channels alleged that according to “various estimates” up to 3,000 Ukrainian troops could be stationed in the area. However, videos posted by pro-Kremlin defense reporters around Zolote and Hirske appeared to show that Ukrainian troops may have withdrawn. 

As yet, it’s unclear whether Russian forces have managed to complete the encirclement of these Ukrainian positions. Later on Thursday, however, the so-called “Luhansk People’s Militia” reported that its forces had entered Zolote and were pushing deeper into the town.  

As Serhiy Haidai recalled on Thursday, before Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Zolote was located along the line of contact in the Donbas. According to the Luhansk governor, the town has been under shelling since 2014, but since the start of the escalated war, enemy forces have been pummeling Zolote with “everything Russia has” — from phosphorus munitions to aerial bombs. As such, the Ukrainian command may have given the order to move to “new fortified lines” to save the lives of military personnel, Haidai surmised. 

UK Defense Intelligence also reported similar developments: “Since 19 June, Russian forces have highly likely advanced over 5 kilometers [3 miles] towards the southern approaches of the Donbas city of Lysychansk. Some Ukrainian units have withdrawn, probably to avoid being encircled.” The intelligence update said that Russia’s improved performance in the area was “likely the result of recent unit reinforcement and heavy concentration of fire.” 

At the same time, UK Defense Intelligence noted that Russia’s efforts to take the western part of the Donetsk region “remain stalled.” Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko recently said that nearly 45 percent of the region remains under Ukrainian control. 

The destroyed Palace of Culture in Lysychansk. June 17, 2022.
Aris Messins / AFP / Scanpix / LETA
A fire at the Azot plant in Severodonetsk. June 18, 2022.
Oleksandr Ratushniak / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA

The Institute for the Study of War predicts that Russian troops advancing from the south are likely to reach Lysychansk “in the coming days.” According to Serhiy Haidai, Russian forces are currently attacking Bila Hora, a settlement directly on the southeastern outskirts of the city. 

Haidai reported on Thursday that the Lysychansk–Bakhmut highway (the so-called “road of life”) isn’t being used due to constant shelling, but a “quiet evacuation” from the city continues along other routes. In Lysychansk itself, shelling has killed one person and injured three others in recent days, the governor said. 

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