Russia's offensive on Severodonetsk – what is known

1 June, 10:52 AM
Russian armored vehicle (Photo:Ukraine Army General Staff / Facebook)

Russian armored vehicle (Photo:Ukraine Army General Staff / Facebook)

The capture of the town of Severodonetsk in Luhansk Oblast is currently one of the main goals of the Russian invaders.

On May 30, fighting continued on the outskirts of the town. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed that the Ukrainian authorities will do everything to impede the Russian advance on Severodonetsk. However, as of now Russians already control the part of the city. 

Here, NV documents what is known about the invaders' attempts to capture Severodonetsk, and how its defense is proceeding.

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Fundamental task for invaders

According to the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW), the Russian campaign in eastern Ukraine, which previously aimed to capture the entirety of Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts, is now focused almost entirely on Severodonetsk.

Russian troops are unlikely to be able to conduct multiple simultaneous operations and will likely further deprioritize advances southeast of Izyum and west of Lyman in favor of concentrating available forces on Severodonetsk in the coming days.

In a video address late on May 29, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the capture of Severodonetsk "a fundamental task for the occupying contingent." He stressed that the invaders "do not care how much to pay for this attempt to raise the Russian flag on 32 Peoples' Friendship Boulevard (how bitter this name sounds now), where the administration is located."

According to Zelensky, everything is now being done to stop the offensive of the Russian invasion forces on Severodonetsk.

"There was not a single day that we did not try to find more weapons to protect our land and our people," the Ukrainian president said.

"And I'm grateful to each and everyone who holds the line of Severodonetsk and demonstrates to the invaders that the world will still be ours, in our entire state, in the entire Donbas and, of course, in Severodonetsk."

Zelensky said all of the critical infrastructure of Severodonetsk had already been destroyed as a result of Russian strikes. In particular, 90% of the houses have been damaged, while more than two-thirds of the city's housing stock has been completely destroyed.

Early on May 30, Ukraine's General Staff reported that the Russian troops in the Donetsk direction were focusing their main efforts on conducting offensive operations to encircle Ukrainian troops near Lysychansk and Severodonetsk and block the main logistics routes.

It was noted that the Russian occupying army gained a foothold in the northeastern and southeastern outskirts of Severodonetsk and transferred ammunition and military equipment from Russia to this area.

Urban fighting in the vicinity of Severodonetsk

At 8.01 a.m., Luhansk Governor Serhiy Hayday said in a Telegram messenger post that the invaders had entered the northeastern and southeastern outskirts of Severodonetsk, killing two civilians and wounding another five.

"Russian shells killed two residents of Severodonetsk, five more were wounded," the governor said.

"Most of them were residents of one area in the old part of the town. They were cooking in the yard when the shelling suddenly began."

Hayday stressed that there was heavy fighting for Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

"The enemy has involved all possible weapons, and is using aircraft. However, our military is holding the line firmly to prevent the enemy from entering deep into the country," he said.

The governor added that the Russian invaders were transferring large batches of ammunition and military hardware to the Severodonetsk area.

The Luhansk governor also noted that at least 12 houses had been destroyed in Severodonetsk on May 29.

At 9.28 a.m. on May 30, Hayday reported that fighting was underway on the streets of the town, and "the enemy is advancing deep into Severodonetsk."

He also reported the disappearance of three doctors in the town – "only a destroyed ambulance was found" (later, speaking on Ukraine's 1+1 television channel, Hayday specified that "the front of their car had been torn off and there was no connection with them").

The official reiterated that critical infrastructure in Severodonetsk had been almost completely destroyed since 90% of the housing stock was damaged, 60% critically.

Фото: ISW

"The town is littered with Russian corpses. It's hot outside and this can lead to (the spread of disease) in the future," Hayday said.

Speaking on 1+1, he said that two volunteers had been injured after the invaders had fired at their car in Severodonetsk.

Journalist Yuriy Butusov overnight May 30 reported that during a street battle in Severodonetsk, Ukrainian paratroopers of the 81st air assault brigade had destroyed a group of Russian military and captured two soldiers from the 7th motorized rifle brigade – Chenchen mercenaries Artem Khokhlov and Grigory Gudzhiev.

"The enemy has entered Severodonetsk from two sides, fierce street fighting is ongoing in the town," Butusov said.

"Two days ago, I was in the area of the Mir Hotel, the enemy is advancing in this direction. Currently, there is no clear front line in Severodonetsk, battles sometimes take place at the shortest distances. Russian troops are trying to break through on a wide front."

In his Telegram messenger channel, Butusov posted a photo of the captured Khokhlov and Gudzhiev, as well as several dead Russian soldiers.

By the middle of the day, the head of the Severodonetsk regional administration, Roman Vlasenko, said that although Russian troops were able to enter Severodonetsk, they were controlling a strip of the town about 100 meters wide.

"Combat is ongoing in the outskirts of Severodonetsk. From two directions – Novoaidar and Starobelsk, the enemy has managed to enter Severodonetsk, controlling a strip about 100 meters wide. They have not been able to make significant progress otherwise, our boys are holding the line," Vlasenko said.

According to the official, the Ukrainian military "slightly repelled the invaders" and "we won't face the encirclement yet," but "the situation in Lysychansk and Severodonetsk still remains difficult."

Vlasenko said that the situation was "at its peak," the Russian army "has thrown all the forces they had to encircle Severodonetsk and Lysychansk."

"Today is the 3rd or 4th day of the town being under constant shelling, the logistics are very complicated, we cannot properly deliver humanitarian aid or ensure evacuation. There are some cases, but there is no opportunity to systemically work on humanitarian aid and evacuation," he added.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar also said the situation around Lysychansk and Severodonetsk was difficult. According to her, this is due to the threat of encirclement of Ukrainian troops near Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, where the main efforts of the invaders are concentrated.

‘Optimistic views’

Spokesperson of Ukraine's Defense Ministry Oleksandr Motuzianyk also called the situation in Severodonetsk difficult, as street fighting was already taking place in the area.

"The Ukrainian military is holding back the assault actions of the enemy, which also abandon their personnel – wherever they fail, they retreat," Motuzianyk said.

The situation is very difficult, but the Armed Forces of Ukraine are still keeping it under control, he said.

"Reconnaissance is working – we know all the enemy's plans. Our aerial reconnaissance is also working. Therefore, I have an optimistic view of the situation."

The Armed Forces of Ukraine are taking all measures to prevent the encirclement of Ukrainian forces in the areas of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, Motuzianyk said. 

He said the enemy assault was proceeding in several areas. The fiercest battles are taking place in the Severodonetsk, Bakhmut and Kurakhove areas.

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