In the Donbass, Russia is concentrating attacks on the narrows of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, the thrust from Lyman toward Slowyansk, and a wedge from Popasna toward Bachmut. With a "firestorm" of almost incessant airstrikes, artillery, and rocket artillery fire, Russian troops are advancing slowly and systematically, devastating the civilian infrastructure. Ukraine can hardly play to its strengths of mobile defense in these confines, and must operate with the constant threat of air strikes, artillery, and rocket fire from three sides. The Ukrainian armed forces currently lack the necessary weapons to effectively counter Russia’s massive aerial and artillery superiority (a leaked intelligence report suggests the disparity is 20:1).
Ukraine’s current approach is (wisely) driven by goals rather than territory; so it seems that Ukrainian commanders view the defense of Severodonetsk (and probably Lysychansk) as an opportunity to inflict as many losses as possible in a built-up environment, rather than hold onto them at all costs. Nonetheless, it lacks the necessary weapon systems to decisively hit command and control, communications, or logistics facilities behind the side of the Russian lines in Donbas. The current price paid for slowing the Russian advance is very high; casualties are 60-100 killed daily. It is now likely that Ukraine will have to retreat to the western side of the Siversky Donets River and the hills of Lysychansk, using the river and the high ground above as new defensive positions.
In particular, a contested crossing over the Siversky Donets will very likely be associated with further heavy losses for the Russian side, even more given the high ground on the opposite side. Nevertheless, because of the superiority in artillery, a slow advance of the Russian “fire roller” in the directions of Lysychansk, Bachmut, Slowyansk, and Kramatorsk should be expected. Whether and where the Russian attack on the Donbas front can be brought to a halt is currently impossible to predict.
Read full article at Center for European Policy Analysis