Institute for the Study of War: Ukraine orders troop withdrawal from Sievierodonetsk

June 24, 2022

FULL ARTICLE

Ukrainian officials ordered a controlled withdrawal of troops from Severodonetsk on June 24. Luhansk Oblast Administration Head Serhiy Haidai announced that Ukrainian forces are withdrawing from “broken positions” in Severodonetsk to prevent further personnel losses and maintain a stronger defense elsewhere.[1] Severodonetsk Regional Military Administration Head Roman Vlasenko stated that several Ukrainian units remain in Severodonetsk as of June 24, but Ukrainian forces will complete the full withdrawal in “a few days.”[2] An unnamed Pentagon official noted that Ukrainian withdrawal from Severodonetsk will allow Ukrainian troops to secure better defensive positions and further wear down Russian manpower and equipment.[3] The Pentagon official noted that Russian forces pushing on Severodonetsk already show signs of “wear and tear” and “debilitating morale,” which will only further slow Russian offensive operations in Donbas. Russian forces have been attempting to seize Severodonetsk since at least March 13, exhausting their forces and equipment over three months.[4]

Ukrainian forces will likely maintain their defenses around Lysychansk and continue to exhaust Russian troops after the fall of Severodonetsk. Ukrainian forces will occupy higher ground in Lysychansk, which may allow them to repel Russian attacks for some time if the Russians are unable to encircle or isolate them. Russian forces in Severodonetsk will also need to complete river crossings from the east, which will require additional time and effort. Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) Head Leonid Pasechnik claimed that Russian forces will completely encircle Lysychansk in the next two or three days after fully interdicting Ukrainian ground lines of communications (GLOCs).[5] Russian forces have successfully secured access to Ukrainian GLOCs along the Hirske-Lysychansk highway by breaking through Hirske on June 24, but Russian forces will need to cut Ukrainian logistics routes from Bakhmut and Siversk to fully isolate Lysychansk. Russian forces are likely to face challenges completing a larger encirclement around Lysychansk due to a failed river crossing in Bilohorivka, northwest of Lysychansk, in early May. Ukrainian forces will likely conduct a deliberate withdrawal from Lysychansk if Russian forces threaten Ukrainian strongholds in the area.

Ukrainian intelligence warned that Russian forces will carry out false-flag attacks in Belarus to draw Belarusian forces into the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Ukrainian Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported that Russian sabotage groups and mercenaries arrived in Mozyr, Belarus, to detonate apartment buildings and civilian infrastructure around the city.[6] The GUR noted that Russian saboteurs will follow a pattern similar to apartment bombings in Chechnya in the early 2000s. Ukrainian officials have previously reported on possible false-flag attacks in Belarus throughout the past four months.

Unidentified assailants resumed attacks against Russian military recruitment centers on June 24, indicating intensifying discontent with covert mobilization. Russian outlet Baza reported two incidents where unknown attackers threw Molotov Cocktails at military recruitment offices in Belgorod City and Perm on June 24.[7] Baza also reported that Belgorod Oblast Police started a search for four contract servicemen—one sergeant and three ordinary soldiers–who have deserted their military unit stationed in Belgorod Oblast.[8]

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces continued to drive north to Lysychansk and have likely encircled Ukrainian troops in Hirske-Zolote.

  • Ukrainian officials announced that Ukrainian forces are fighting their last battles in the industrial zone of Severodonetsk before withdrawing from the city.

  • Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations west of Izyum and north of Slovyansk. Russian forces will likely prioritize encircling Ukrainian troops in Lysychansk and interdicting remaining GLOCs northwest of the city before resuming a full-scale offensive operation on Slovyansk.

  • Ukrainian forces are continuing to launch counteroffensive operations along the Kherson-Dnipropetrovsk Oblast border and are threatening Russian forces in Kherson City.

  • Ukrainian partisans continued to attack Russian collaborators in Kherson City.