The strategic city of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine, the scene of a fierce battle in recent weeks, is ” entirely “ fell on Saturday June 25 in the hands of Russian and pro-Russian forces, which also entered the neighboring one of Lyssytchansk, where “street fighting” took place at the start of the fifth month of conflict. On Friday, the Ukrainian army announced its withdrawal from this city of around 100,000 inhabitants before the war to better defend the locality of Lyssytchansk, located on the opposite bank of a river, the Donets.
At the same time, the pro-Russian separatists declared that they had “taken full control of the industrial zone of the Azot factory” in Severodonetsk and entered with the Russian military in Lyssytchansk. Crucial progress on the ground for Russia, which wants to conquer the entire industrial basin of Donbass, already partially in the hands of pro-Russian separatists since 2014.
No game changer on the pitch
These massive bombardments by the Russians, which eventually made the Ukrainian soldiers give in, do not necessarily fundamentally change the situation on the ground, according to experts. “The Ukrainian units are exhausted, bloodless. They had terrible losses with completely neutralized battalions”explains a high-ranking French officer on condition of anonymity, referring to units of 300 or 400 men of which only about twenty valid ones remained.
But even so, “the overall vision – a slow war of entrenched positions – has hardly changed”assures AFP Ivan Klyszcz, researcher at the Estonian University of Tartu. “The withdrawal was probably planned before and can be considered tactical”he analyzes, stressing that the Ukrainian resistance has allowed kyiv to consolidate its rear.
“A professional and tactical withdrawal”
Ukrainian forces “are in the process of making a professional and tactical withdrawal in order to consolidate positions that they will be better able to defend”also judged an official at the Pentagon, on condition of anonymity.
“I stressed the need to achieve fire parity with the enemy, which will allow us to stabilize the situation in the most threatened region of Lugansk” where Severodonetsk is located and now almost completely conquered by the Russians, declared in this regard the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Valery Zaluzhniy, reporting on his Facebook page on a telephone conversation with his American counterpart, General Mark Milley .
Of the “foreign mercenaries”
The Russian army has also said to have killed “up to 80 Polish mercenaries” in a bombardment, also destroying 20 armored vehicles and eight Grad multiple rocket launchers in high-precision weapons fire on the Megatex zinc plant in Konstantinovka, in the eastern region of Donetsk. This information was also not verifiable, while Moscow frequently assures “eliminate mercenaries” foreigners who went to fight in Ukraine.
In Kharkiv (north-east), the second largest metropolis in Ukraine, which has resisted pressure from Russian troops since the start of the offensive, missiles are falling again daily on the city center. And in the South, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday that “more than 300 Ukrainian servicemen and foreign mercenaries and 35 heavy weapons units” had been “liquidated in one day in the Mykolaiv region”.
Tension with Belarus
kyiv also accused Moscow of wanting ” to attract “ Belarus “in the war” after the firing, according to the Ukrainian army, of twenty missiles from this country, as well as planes, on an important Ukrainian military center, in Desna, in the North, on Saturday around 05:00 local time (02:00 GMT).
This village in the border region of Cherniguiv, where no casualties this time were to be deplored, had already been the target, on May 17, of strikes which, according to the Ukrainian head of state Volodymyr Zelensky, had then caused 87 dead. The first attacks carried out from Belarusian territory had also taken place at the very beginning of the invasion of Ukraine launched on February 24.
By receiving Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, Vladimir Putin also indicated on Saturday that Russia will deliver ” in the coming months “ missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads to his country. The two leaders have also indicated that they want to modernize the aviation of Belarus to make it capable of transporting nuclear weapons.
Joe Biden and Europe
These statements, which risk further straining relations between Moscow and Western countries, come as Joe Biden left for Europe on Saturday, where he intends to further consolidate, and over time, the ranks of Westerners against Russia. The American president must first participate, on Sunday, in a G7 summit in southern Germany, where aid to Ukraine will be discussed, then, from Tuesday in Madrid, in another of the NATO.
For its part, kyiv castigated Moscow’s condemnation of the green light given Thursday by the EU to Ukraine’s candidacy. “It only shows the weakness of Russia”tweeted the head of Ukrainian diplomacy, Dmytro Kouleba.
On Friday, Moscow denounced a “geopolitical capture” space of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS bringing together several countries of the former USSR) to “contain Russia”ensuring that “this aggressive approach by the European Union has the potential to create new schisms and much deeper crises in Europe”.
No progress on NATO
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan finally estimated on Saturday that no progress had been made on Sweden’s desire to join NATO, after a telephone conversation with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson. Sweden and Finland asked to join the Atlantic Alliance, in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but came up against Turkey’s blockage.