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tactical withdrawal in Sievierodonetsk to avoid another massacre

Ukrainian soldiers head to take up position in Severodonetsk, already surrounded by Russia, in a picture taken this week.

The first time Ukraine withdrew from Sievierodonetsk obviously coincided with the first Russian offensive, on May 24, that is, almost exactly a month ago. After some initial skirmishes on the outskirts of the city, including the capture of the Hotel Mir, the Russian reconnaissance troops along with the Chechen troops entered the capital of the Ukrainian Lugansk without encountering any resistance. The videos showed groups of invaders walking without any background noise, in the tranquility of an abandoned city.

The decision was applauded by almost all experts. Russia already occupied 90% of LuganskUkraine was outnumbered by about ten to one, and in the end there was always the possibility of making a double play to surprise the Russians: on the one hand, flee to Lisichansk, whose hilltop location helped defense and even artillery attack on a Russian-taken Sievierodonetsk… or fix the front line further west, practically on the border of the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, closer to the various supply lines and with greater Ease of troop movement.

What was the great advantage of this second movement? It prevented the pocketing of the different units by the Russian army, the worst thing that can happen to you in a defensive operation. If you resist on the front line, you lose men, but you lose them with a. If they surround your battalions, they are condemned to surrender or death with no greater gain than the resistance itself. In other words, the possibility of turning your defeat into a massacre for both sides.

[Rendición o muerte en Zolote: unos 1.000 soldados ucranianos caen en la trampa rusa del Donbás]

That made sense in Mariupol, very early in the war, and with nuances. From the outset, both the Azov Battalion and the marine infantry troops were surrounded from the start. The terrible defense of the entire south of the country by the Territorial Defense -which cost the head of the country, Yuri Halushkin, his job in mid-May- meant that those thousands of men will only have resistance or surrender, without third options. They chose the former until the latter became inevitable. Along the way, they held up the Russian troops long enough to prevent them from continuing their conquests north of Zaporizhia or marching directly to the eastern front.

A perhaps late second withdrawal

However, Sievierodonetsk was a different scenario. In Sievierodonetsk there was indeed the third option of strategic withdrawal. Save lives and save weapons without losing the possibility of recovering the position later. It seemed by far the most sensible option… but gives the feeling that politics could over military strategy and within forty-eight hours everything had changed. Instead of an orderly withdrawal from the area, the Ukrainian troops stayed at the Azot chemical plant and reinforcements from the “foreign legion” arrived. Within a few days, Volodymyr himself Zelensky appeared in Lisichansk defying all security conventions to meet with the high command and convey their support in person.

Ukrainian soldiers head to take up position in Severodonetsk, already surrounded by Russia, in a picture taken this week.

EPA/OLEKSANDR RATUSHNIAK

EFE

Although the counteroffensive seemed to go well at first -Ukraine managed to recover 50% of Sievierodonetsk-, everything was based on a surprise factor that did not last very long. Soon, the situation returned to the original scenario: the Russians and their allies dominated the entire residential area of ​​a city shattered by their own artillery… and the Ukrainians were still sheltering in Azot, with the bridges to Lisichansk cut, in serious risk of encirclement, and with an eye on the T1302 road, whose heroic defense allows the viability of a new tactical withdrawal, we understand that this time is definitive.

The person in charge of formalizing the announcement was the president of the Lugansk administrative region, Sergei Hayday. Early Friday morning, Hayday was clearly speaking of a strategic withdrawal “in a matter of hours or days.” It rather seems like the former. Normally, one does not announce a withdrawal until it is well advanced. In fact, The first thing the Russians did as soon as they learned of the Ukrainian intentions was to bomb the T1302where we all understand that said withdrawal will take place, in which there may be thousands of elite troops involved, some of them even from Zolote.

Abandon crumbling cities to defend solid ground

Because it is very likely that this decision is a consequence of common sense… but also of what happened on Wednesday in this town north of Popasna. Three or four regiments were fighting there in the belief that the Russians would be unable to encircle them – in these four months of war, Russia has shown exaggerated clumsiness in this regard. In the end, most were able to escape at the last moment, before the invading army finally managed to close the pincer. Inside, about a thousand men have remained with the task of resisting as much as they can and covering the rear for those who were retreating.

Seeing that the experience could be repeated with many more men and a more complete encirclement, Ukraine has decided to cede Sievierodonetsk and, we understand, Lisichansk, granting complete rule of Luhansk to pro-Russian militias. Unfortunately, they are nothing more than points on the map, since both cities have been completely devastated, like so many others in Donbas, a region that will require millions and millions of rubles if Russia intends to rebuild it; something that, supposedly, was the initial objective.

Ukrainian soldiers in the vicinity of the city of Severodonetsk.

Ukrainian soldiers in the vicinity of the city of Severodonetsk.

The tactical withdrawal of the Ukrainian army is good news or at least consume what the experts have been asking for for a long time. However, it is still the consequence of a very delicate military moment. Waiting for the new American HIMARS missile launchers to arrive on this front – it is also possible that they will be reserved for the counteroffensive in Kherson, which seems to be advancing at a faster pace in recent days – the truth is that Ukraine is very close to losing all of Donbas.

Lugansk, as we have said, can be considered abandoned. Certain territories of Donetsk remain, mainly the Sloviansk-Kramatorsk axis, but it is to be assumed that as soon as the conquest of Sievierodonetsk-Lisichansk is finished, all Russian troops will go to that front and try to pocket these two cities from the north (Izium) and the south (around Artemivsk), in addition to continuing to advance from the east (Limán) and close the threat on the road that connects Kramatorsk with Barvinkove.

[España lidera un plan para sacar por tren 8.000 toneladas de cereal de Ucrania vetado por Rusia]

However, it must be remembered that a war is not won without previous defeats. Backing down is normal in a weaker and more tired army. The question is how far and there will be the key to the coming days. We will see if Ukraine feels comfortable defending what remains of Donetsk or if it needs to back down further. We will also see if Russia continues to keep the troops together and the lines of communication open as it moves west, something it has not achieved at other times in this war. The mix of these two scenarios will define much of the summer in southeastern Ukraine.

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Written by Editor TLN

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