Severodonetsk Turing Into The Next Mariupol in Ukraine’s Donbas – After seeing the siege of Mariupol turn the port city into a destroyed ghost town, Ukrainian officials fear that the besieged city of Severodonetsk will suffer the same fate.
Russian attempts to encircle the city and the Ukrainian defenders inside the defensive pocket have resulted in nearly all of the buildings of Severodonetsk being either damaged or destroyed – just like Mariupol.
Mayor Oleksandr Striuk said to The Associated Press that “the city is being systematically destroyed — 90% of the buildings in the city are damaged.”
As the Russian forces begin a slow but constant advance on Severodonetsk, they have units that have entered the city as the fighting rages on. They are also trying to take the nearby city of Lysychansk, the last two Ukrainian cities in the Luhansk Oblast, located in the Donbas industrial heartland.
Ukrainian officials fear that the constant, indiscriminate shelling and airstrikes could reduce the cities to rubble. Thousands of civilians who remain in the cities have been forced into shelters as the onslaught continues. “The Russians are destroying Severodonetsk, like Mariupol,” Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said.
“They can’t take the city so they have decided to try to destroy it, and to make our troops leave the city,” Haidai added.
“[The Russians] managed to gain a foothold for some time. They even set up some kind of checkpoint there,” he said to the news media. “The checkpoint was broken, they were thrown back. That is to say, the Russian army does not control the route now, but they are shelling it.”
Russians Claim to Have Captured Lyman
The Russian Defense Ministry has claimed that its forces had taken the eastern Ukrainian city of Lyman on Friday.
The ministry’s claim was backed by Russian separatists from the Russian-proxy Donetsk People’s Republic who said that they had taken the important railway hub and the city.
Ukrainian officials admitted that most of Lyman had been lost but its forces were continuing to block the Russian advance to Sloviansk, a city 20 kilometers (12 miles) southwest.
“Lyman is strategically important because it is the site of a major railway junction, and also gives access to important rail and road bridges over the Siverskyy Donets River,” the U.K Ministry of Defense posted on Twitter in its latest intelligence assessment.
“In the coming days, Russian units in the area are likely to prioritize forcing a crossing of the river. For now, Russia’s main effort likely remains 40 km to the east, around the Severodonetsk pocket but a bridgehead near Lyman would give Russia an advantage in the potential next phase of the Donbas offensive when it will likely seek to advance on key Ukrainian-held cities deeper in Donetsk Oblast, Sloviansk, and Kramatorsk.”
In a sign of how badly Russian front-line units have been bled in the invasion, Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said that the Russian military was deploying 50-year-old T-62 tanks, “which means that the second army of the world has run out of modernized equipment.”
Haidai said that as the Russian pincers continue to close around Severodonetsk, Ukrainian forces may be forced into withdrawing from the city to avoid being encircled and cut off. “We will have enough strength and resources to defend ourselves. However, it is possible that in order not to be surrounded we will have to retreat,” he said on his Telegram channel.
The Russian military has committed 25 battalion tactical groups, numbering about 10,000 troops intent on capturing the remaining territory in the Luhansk Oblast. They recently added another 10-12 battalion tactical groups to the fight, speaking to how much they have placed on the Donbas offensive, added Zhdanov.
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 10 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.