NewsWorldANALYSIS | Ukraine may have suffered its worst...

ANALYSIS | Ukraine may have suffered its worst week since the fall of Mariupol

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Video summary of the Ukraine-Russia war: June 21 10:19 (CNN) — The Ukrainian defense of Lysychansk, the last city under its control in the Luhansk region, has just become much weaker.
For weeks, Russian forces have been trying to destroy Ukrainian defensive positions to the south and east of the city, in an effort to surround and cut off Ukrainian troops tasked with holding it. In the past two 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 tactical groups are merging or withdrawing to restore their combat capabilities. A Ukrainian serviceman looks on after an attack on a warehouse near Lysychansk on June 17, 2022. The Institute for the Study of War, in its latest daily analysis of the battlefield, says the Russian advance from the south means that “they may be able to threaten Lysychansk in the next few days, preventing a difficult opposite crossing of the Siverskyi Donets River.” The settlements that Ukrainian officials confirmed as lost on Wednesday are all on the west bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, less than 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 Luhansk regional military administration. Ukrainian troops travel in armored vehicles on a highway in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region on June 21, 2022. Hayday acknowledged 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 towns immediately south of Lysychansk, including Ustynivka, Pidlisne and Myrna Dolyna, and were advancing on 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 greater Russian firepower after weeks of bombardment. Ukrainian forces continue to fight on the fringes of the neighboring city of Severodonetsk and adjacent communities, and benefit from higher ground in Lysychansk. But their already compromised supply lines are becoming more tenuous, and the sheer scale of Russian firepower is reducing defense positions. The setbacks suffered in recent days, after weeks of determined resistance, mark probably the most difficult week for the Ukrainian military since the last defenders in Mariupol surrendered. Russian servicemen patrol near the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on June 13, 2022. A Ukrainian tank is in position during heavy fighting at the front in Severodonetsk on June 8. The attacks near Lysychansk are being carried out in conjunction with renewed Russian 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 the best Ukrainian units are seriously depleted by months of missile, rocket, artillery and air strikes. But if the Ukrainians decide to dig in at Lysychansk, it will likely take significant Russian efforts, possibly for weeks, to take it. By then it may resemble the partially razed cities of Severodonetsk, nearby Popasna, and Mariupol.

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