Ukraine counterattack takes back parts of strategic Donbas city

Civilians evacuate the city of Slovyansk in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on June 4, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine (Photo: AFP)
Civilians evacuate the city of Slovyansk in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on June 4, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine (Photo: AFP)


Close urban combat in Severodonetsk makes it harder for Russia to use artillery, as Kyiv awaits a US rocket system

KYIV (UKRAINE) : Ukrainian forces have managed to retake parts of the city of Severodonetsk as part of a counterattack, boosting hopes that they can hold off the Russian offensive in the eastern Donbas region as Kyiv waits for new long-range rocket systems to arrive from the U.S.

The close-quarters combat in Severodonetsk, the capital of the Luhansk region, makes it harder for Russian troops to unleash their artillery against Ukrainian forces. That has been Russia’s main advantage in the east, enabling them to crush Ukrainian defenses and make slow but steady gains.

Ukrainian leaders are hoping that the arrival of heavier weaponry from the West will enable them to turn the tide against better-armed Russian forces in the east of the country. The Biden administration last week said it would provide Ukraine with a guided-rocket system capable of striking targets from as far as 48 miles.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday on state television that deliveries of Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, or MLRS, wouldn’t change anything, calling it an effort by the West to make up for military equipment that Ukraine had already lost. He did, however, indicate it may prompt Russia to escalate its attacks.

“If they are supplied, we will draw appropriate conclusions from this and use our own weapons, of which we have enough, to hit targets that we have not yet struck," Mr. Putin said.

Russia, meanwhile, launched missiles at a number of sites around the country over the weekend, breaking the relative calm in Kyiv and several other regions far from the fighting in Donbas.

Explosions were heard in Kyiv early on Sunday, sending one person to the hospital. Three were killed by Russian shelling in the southern city of Mykolaiv, according to local media. And in Donbas, where the fighting is now concentrated, four towns were hit by Russian missiles, including Svyatohirsk, where some 300 people were sheltering in a monastery. Four were killed and the monastery, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, was destroyed, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“They are ready to burn everything: Orthodox churches just like anything else in Ukraine," Mr. Zelensky said in an address posted online late Saturday night. He said 113 churches had been destroyed since the full-scale invasion began in February.

Despite its superior artillery and air power, Russian troops were still struggling on Sunday to take Severodonetsk, the focus of their Donbas offensive.

Moscow first captured a portion of Severodonetsk more than a week ago, and has moved forces in other regions of Ukraine into defensive postures to concentrate all available forces on taking the city, according to the Institute for the Study of War. Last weekend, Ukrainian officials spoke of potentially pulling out entirely of Severodonetsk.

But after a week of bloody, block-by-block urban fighting, Ukrainian fighters have reclaimed parts of Severodonetsk, according to Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region that is part of Donbas, and now control half the city.

“The occupiers lost a huge number of personnel," Mr. Haidai wrote on Telegram Sunday.

The British ministry of defense said that the Ukrainian counterattack is “likely blunting the operational momentum Russian forces previously gained through concentrating combat units and firepower."

Russian forces in the Severodonetsk area include reserves from the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic, according to British intelligence.

The British ministry of defense said that Moscow’s use of the separatist fighters, who are poorly trained and lack heavy equipment, indicates a desire to shield Russian units from casualties in urban combat.


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