Ukraine is correct to prioritize counterattacks over holding Severodonetsk at all costs, ISW analysis suggests

1 June, 12:58 PM
Ukrainian military on the front line in Donetsk region (Photo:REUTERS/Serhii Nuzhnenko)

Ukrainian military on the front line in Donetsk region (Photo:REUTERS/Serhii Nuzhnenko)

Russian progress in capturing the city of Severodonetsk in Luhansk oblast indicates that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are correctly prioritizing counterattacks over defense, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in an assessment on May 31.

Sound Ukrainian prioritization of counter-offensive and defensive operations pushed the Russians almost out of artillery range of Kharkiv City and have stopped the Russian advances from Izyum—both of which are more important accomplishments than the defense of Severodonetsk,” the ISW’s report said.

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The think-tank also noted that Ukrainian leadership “has had to make incredibly difficult choices in this war and has generally made the right ones, at least at the level of strategic prioritization and in the pace, scale, and ambitiousness of (AFU’s) counter-offensives.”

“That is why Ukraine still has a good chance to stop and then reverse the gains Russia is currently making.”

According to the report, Ukrainian commanders have decided to “avoid committing more resources to save Severodonetsk and the decision to withdraw from it were strategically sound, however painful.”

At the same time, Russia’s persistent focus on seizing Severodonetsk in particular, and Donbas in general, “continues to create vulnerabilities for Russia in Ukraine’s vital Kherson Oblast, where Ukrainian counter-offensives continue.”

ISW suggested that the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson remains vital for Moscow, as it remain the only Ukrainian region where the Kremlin’s troops have a presence on Dnipro’s west bank.

“If Russia is able to retain a strong lodgment in Kherson when fighting stops, it will be in a very strong position from which to launch a future invasion,” the report reads.

Here are the key points of ISW’s recent assessment:

  •    Russian forces are increasingly focused on advancing on Slovyansk from the southeast of Izyum and west of Lyman.
  •    Russian forces are making gains within and around Severodonetsk.
  •    Russian forces are likely hoping to advance on Lysychansk from Toshkivka in order to avoid having to fight across the Severskyi Donets River from Severodonetsk.
  •    The Russian grouping in Kherson Oblast is likely feeling the pressure of the limited Ukrainian counteroffensive in northwestern Kherson Oblast, especially as much of the Russian operational focus is currently on the capture of Severodonetsk.

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