In the Donbass, the noose is tightening around the Luhansk Pocket, Moscow’s priority target

In the Donbass, the noose is tightening around the Luhansk Pocket, Moscow’s priority target

The last bridge connecting Sievierodonetsk with Lyssytchansk is now impassable. The administrative capital of the Luhansk province, almost completely captured by the Russian army, is not completely surrounded, but it is under constant shelling from Russian artillery, and communication with the rear has become very complicated. “The situation is extremely bad,” admits Luhansk Police Commander Colonel Oleh Hryhorov, who walks back and forth between Bakhmout, his rear base, and the Luhansk pocket.

What worries Ukrainian fighters is not Sievierodonetsk, the city that has been reported missing for several weeks, but the possible encirclement of its sister city Lysytchansk, which the Russian army is attacking from both north and south. If it fell, it would be the end of the Luhansk pocket.

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Since the failure of the offensive against the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the Luhansk region has been Moscow’s priority target alongside Donetsk. The conquest of the two Donbass provinces, which have been partially occupied since 2014, was also Russia’s official goal when war broke out on February 24, when President Vladimir Putin claimed to want to stop the “genocide” against Russia, according to speakers in the Donbass. The population has since denied this, 90% of the residents have fled elsewhere in Ukraine or abroad.

Only a few thousand people live in Sievjodonetsk. They survive without water, without electricity and now without supplies. 500 of them took refuge in the huge Azot chemical plant. “Sievierodonetsk is the most bombed place” in Donbass and the civilians of Azot “refuse to evacuate,” said Luhansk Governor Serhi Haïdaï.

The last passable road

The question of evacuation of Azot’s civilians entrenched there with the city’s defenders could be the last episode of the battle before the fall of Sieverodonetsk. The two warring countries discussed their fate without reaching an agreement. For Kyiv, the fact that they followed the fighters into the factory would mean that they wanted to be evacuated to Ukraine. For Moscow, being among the last residents of the city means they want to stay on the Russian side. Mr Haïdaï specifically believes that “they think it’s safer to stay there at the moment”.

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In Lysytchansk, from where Ukrainian artillery is trying to slow down the Russian advance, a rocket fell on Friday, June 17, turning the House of Culture into a humanitarian center where the city’s residents are refugees who are also the reject the idea of ​​an evacuation. Four people died. This is the second time the shelter has been hit.

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