A New Stage of the Russian Special Operation Has Matured in Ukraine

NEW – July 6, 2022

After the liberation of Lisichansk, units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and the People’s Militia of the LPR came close to Seversk – the last relatively large settlement covering the way to Slavyansk. What does this mean and how can events develop in the central sector of the front in the near future? There is reason to believe that we are witnessing the beginning of major military events.

The enemy has been building a new defensive line for several weeks along the automobile and railway routes running from north to south from Seversk through Zvanovo to Soledar and further to Artemovsk (Bakhmut is its Ukrainian name after the renaming of 2016). For this purpose, units were removed from the Slavyansk garrison and new units recruited in the hinterlands of Ukraine were sent. Those who were able to escape from Lisichansk also fled there.

According to Kiev’s plan, a new front of the Ukrainian defence of the Slavyansk–Kramatorsk area should be formed along the highway. This is already a familiar tactic, since earlier the enemy formed lines of defence along other natural barriers. First of all, rivers. From these stood out the Seversky Donets, which the UAF struggled to turn into an insurmountable obstacle, using the climatic factor (overflow and flood), as well as imported weapons to destroy pontoon bridges.

As a result, the Russian Armed Forces and allies adopted a new tactic. Lisichansk was surrounded and eventually liberated by not a direct assault across the river from Severodonetsk, which the UAF literally asked for, but through an exit to the rear of Ukrainian positions in Lisichansk from the conditional Popasnaya district. Along the way, a cauldron was created and liquidated in Gorskoye-Zolotoye.

Kiev’s plan does not change strategically. The Ukrainian General Staff continues to try to slow down the advance of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and allies at a certain new frontier. This time it is directly in front of Slavyansk, which is 7-10 kilometres away in some parts of the front. Kiev’s task is to create new lines of defence from scratch after the rapid loss of a large industrial centre.

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Beyond the Seversk-Soledar line is Slavyansk itself, beyond which no new line of defence can be organised. It’s a matter of history and geography, surprisingly enough. Beyond Slavyansk and Kramatorsk, the industrial district of Donbass ends to the west. Avdeevka with its huge industrial zone remains in the rear and surrounded, but its garrison will almost certainly suffer the fate of Lisichansk. Encirclement and/or flight and captivity.

And the peculiarity of the historical formation of Donbass as a region is extremely dense construction. Over the decades of Soviet industrialisation and urbanisation, cities merged with each other. If there is an empty space between them, it is filled with industrial zones and small villages.

Networks of roads are woven between them into a web. For example, the Seversk-Soledar-Artemovsk highway, along which a new line of defence of the Ukrainian Armed Forces is being built, does not have a designation as a highway. These are just streets flowing into each other in conjoined settlements (Pushkin Street in Seversk turns into Shevchenko Street in Zvanovka, and further south is Gorky Street up to Soledar).

That is exactly why it was so easy for the Ukrainian Armed Forces to create defensive fortifications, when settlements practically intertwined with each other can be turned into a single chain of fortifications. And this chain had to pass village after village, urban-type settlement after urban-type settlement, because of which the names of little-known villages, turned by the UAF into a solid array of defence, constantly were seen in official reports.

But beyond Slavyansk to the west, the landscape is changing dramatically. There, as a matter of fact, is no longer Donbass, but Left-Bank Ukraine. And so on up to the Dnieper River and the city of Dnepr, better known as Dnepropetrovsk. There are huge almost empty agricultural spaces between the district centres, where one cannot organise a new line of defence. This is not Donbass with its eternal urbanism. There’s nothing to cling to.

And after the encirclement/liberation of Slavyansk, a huge hole is formed in the Ukrainian defence in the steppe up to the Dnieper. Of course, with some amendments, but it is difficult to imagine that the enemy will be able to cling to at least one locality there. It will be difficult to recruit even the defence forces there, because those who could be mobilised were already mobilised and sent to Mariupol or Severodonetsk.

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The same story is bound to happen a little further south after the occupation of Artemovsk (Bakhmut), which opens up exactly the same possibility of moving across the steppe in the direction of Zaporozhye. And this, in turn, automatically puts the enemy in a critical position at the front from the city of Zaporozhye to Gulyai-Pole.

The destruction of the Ukrainian defences around Slavyansk and Artemovsk is, of course, important in itself, including from a symbolic point of view (the completion of the liberation of the DPR). But in strategic terms, it is extremely important for the further advancement and destruction of the military structure of Ukraine as a whole.

In other words, the encirclement/liquidation of enemy groups in Slavyansk-Kramatorsk, then in Avdeevka, Artemovsk and Kurakhovo does not just destroy the front in Donbass and destroys the largest grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces at the moment. The most important result will be that this should bring the troops of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and allies into operational space on a vast territory. Along the way, the enemy’s defence of Kharkov is sagging on the northern flank, and in this direction the activity of Russian troops has sharply increased in the last week.

In the near future, the destruction of the defense line from Seversk to Artemovsk, which Kiev is trying to create, is on the agenda. And there is every reason to believe that the Russian command has already adapted to local conditions.The fact is that there is no need to push through to Seversk on the shoulders of Ukrainian units retreating from Lisichansk. Over Seversk from the north (sorry for the tautology) hangs another grouping, which just approached Slavyansk at 7-10 kilometres.

Over and over again, Kiev expects strikes where it thought it out for itself, but it receives (has already received several times) strikes on the flanks and rear. The same story may repeat itself literally in the coming days with Seversk. Moreover, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief recommended giving rest and building up the potential of those forces that participated in the liberation of Severodonetsk and Lisichansk. But units of the groups “East” and “West” are recommended to continue to carry out their tasks.

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Further events may be divided into several operations of different scales and duration. It is possible that breaking open the defence lines around Slavyansk (no matter how many there are) will take up to a couple of weeks, depending on the level of morale of the defenders.

It is already clear that after the loss of Lisichansk, the fighting spirit of the UAF dropped sharply, but the rear units of the garrison in Slavyansk are less panic-stricken. It will penetrate there as soldiers from three brigades defeated in Lisichansk and Severodonetsk arrive at the garrison location, including the 10th Mountain Assault Brigade, recruited mainly from residents of the mountainous regions of Western Ukraine and which suffered critical losses for its existence in the last week. But both the capture of Seversk and the encirclement of Slavyansk is a matter of time, that is, quite a predictable local operation.

But then the free field of choice begins. An open gap in the front will allow Russian troops to advance up to the Dnieper. Hopefully, an entire group of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the southern sector of the front will fall into operational encirclement. For Kiev, attempts to hold the Kharkov region will lose all meaning, since previously it was necessary solely to exert pressure through Izyum on the flank of the Russian grouping.

Where the UAF will take reserves from in this situation is completely unclear. This is the very case when, through a series of successive operational and tactical operations, if not the entire front of the defence of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, then a significant part of it may collapse in the near future. The coming days will show how quickly the Russian Armed Forces and allies will enter a new stage of the operation.

Evgeny Krutikov

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