Institute for the Study of War: Ukraine force retake large areas of Sievierodonetsk, reportedly kill another Russian major general 

June 5, 2022

Ukrainian forces continued to conduct limited and localized but successful counterattacks against Russian positions throughout Ukraine on June 5, including retaking large areas of Severodonetsk—the city in Luhansk Oblast the Kremlin has concentrated the majority of its forces on capturing. A Russian Telegram channel claimed that Ukrainian troops launched a counterattack north of Kharkiv City, indicating that Ukrainian forces continue to pressure Russian defensive lines near the Russian border. Ukrainian forces are likely seeking to leverage the continued Russian focus on Severodonetsk to conduct counterattacks on other axes of advance. Even as Russian forces continue to pour equipment and troops into the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk area, Ukrainian forces have conducted a successful counterattack in Severodonetsk in the last 48 hours and pushed Russian troops back to the eastern outskirts of the city and out of southern settlements. Ukrainian counteroffensive pressure will likely continue to draw the attention of Russian forces to Luhansk Oblast and therefore leave vulnerabilities in Russian defensive efforts in Kharkiv Oblast and along the Southern Axis. The ability of Ukrainian forces to successfully counterattack in Severodonetsk, the Kremlin’s current priority area of operations, further indicates the declining combat power of Russian forces in Ukraine.

 

Ukrainian forces reportedly killed Russian Major General Roman Kutuzov on June 5. Russian Telegram channels reported that Kutuzov was killed near Mykolaivka, Luhansk Oblast (near Popasna) on June 5. Kutuzov likely commanded the Donetsk People’s Republic’s 1st Army Corps at the time of his death, though ISW cannot confirm his exact position. Some sources reported that Kutuzov commanded the 5th Combined Arms Army (CAA) at the time of his death, but we assess this is likely incorrect—Kutuzov served as acting commander of the 5th CAA from 2017 to 2019, and Major General Alexei Vladimirovich Podilov currently commands the 5th CAA. High-level Russian commanders have taken remarkably high losses during combat in Ukraine, and will likely continue to do so as the Russian command continues to deploy military leadership directly to the frontline. Kutuzov’s death has not yet been confirmed but would be at least the seventh death of a general in Ukraine since the beginning of the war.

 

Russian forces conducted their first missile strike against Kyiv in over a month on June 5. Advisor to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense Vadym Denysenko stated that Russian forces fired five X-22 cruise missiles from a Tu-95 aircraft at Kyiv from the direction of the Caspian Sea that hit the Darnytsia Rail Car Repair Plant on the outskirts of Kyiv. The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that this strike targeted T-72 tanks supplied to Ukraine by other Eastern European countries, but images of the target area confirm that the missiles hit the Darnytsia plant. It is unclear if Russian forces intended to strike foreign-provided Ukrainian tanks and missed, or if the Kremlin is attempting to obfuscate its intended target. This attack on Kyiv likely indicates that Russian forces are continuing to target Ukrainian infrastructure in non-critical areas of Ukraine in order to disrupt Ukrainian logistics as Russian forces take considerable losses in Donbas.

 

Russian military bloggers continued to reckon with overarching struggles in Russian force generation on June 5. Russian milblogger Alexander Khodakovsky accused “screamers in the guise of patriots” of hypocritically calling for general mobilization while at the same time discrediting the Russian military leadership and driving away those who would voluntarily take up arms for Russia. Khodakovsky blamed the pervasive public discourse on general mobilization for making people overthink and subsequently become less willing to enter military service, thereby forcing Russian military command closer to actually needing to announce general mobilization. Khodakovsky suggested that this discourse is setting Russia up for a long war in Ukraine and that Russian authorities have been positioned to take the blame for losses. Russian war journalist Alexander Sladkov claimed that the Russian grouping in Ukraine is an ”exclusively professional army” not staffed by conscripts, while simultaneously calling for the removal of health requirements for rear and combat specialties in order to mobilize those who should be medically disqualified. These and other comments by Russian military specialists indicate the Russian military community is increasingly aware of issues in sustaining mobilization efforts and different actors are seeking to apportion blame as Russian operations continue to stall.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Ukrainian counterattacks in Severodonetsk recaptured large parts of the city and forced Russian troops out of the southern suburbs of the city.

  • Russian forces continued efforts to converge on Slovyansk from the southeast of Izyum and west of Lyman but remain unlikely to make notable advances around Slovyansk due to their continued prioritization of Severodonetsk.

  • Ukrainian troops reportedly conducted limited and localized counterattacks north of Kharkiv City.

  • Russian forces continued to hold their defensive lines and fire at Ukrainian positions along the Southern Axis.

  • Ukrainian forces likely killed Russian Major General Roman Kutuzov near Popasna.