Despite continued military successes, even on the 100th day of the war, Russia is far from its goals in eastern Ukraine. When the Kremlin launched its attack on Ukraine, it was clearly aimed at overthrowing the government in Kyiv and conquering the entire country. Repelled by the resistance of the Ukrainian army, Russia then concentrated on eastern Ukraine – and tried to take over the Luhansk and Donetsk regions there.
Russia has been making very slow progress in capturing Luhansk for weeks, and this is the case at the moment. “The situation is difficult, but it’s better than yesterday. And it’s under control,” said Deputy Chief of Staff Hromow on Thursday, referring to the situation in Sieverodonetsk. Ukrainian authorities had previously announced that the city was largely under the control of Russian troops.
There are very bloody street fights in the city, Hromow said. Sievjerodonetsk is considered the last Ukrainian stronghold in the Luhansk region. According to their own statements, pro-Russian troops and the Russian military are about to take power there. However, the Ukrainian head of administration in Luhansk, Serhiy Hajdaj, also reported on successful commando actions by the defenders in the city.
Presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych even said that the Ukrainian army had lured the Russians into a trap in Sieverodonetsk. This information could not be verified. However, the Ukrainian fighters maintained their positions in one part of the city. “So I would advise skeptics not to write off Sieverodonetsk. It’s still too early for that. The city is holding up,” said the governor.
According to reports from both sides, civilians have been hiding in bunkers under the chemical plant Asot (nitrogen) in the city, Hajdaj spoke of around 800 people. “These are local people who have been asked to leave town but have refused. There are also children there, but not very many,” he told US broadcaster CNN. In the port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian soldiers and civilians held out for weeks in bunkers under the Azovstal steelworks.
According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, brutal fighting is raging in Donbass between Russian attack troops and Ukrainian defenders. In his video address to his compatriots, Zelenskyy reported that the situation in Sievjerodonetsk was the hardest. However, it is still too early to give details.
The situation is also difficult in towns and communities near Sievjerodonetsk, such as in Lysychansk and Bakhmut. “There are many cities where the Russian attack is massive.” Sieverodonetsk and Lysychansk are considered the last major Ukrainian bastions in the Luhansk region.
Russian troops are currently mobilizing fighters from other areas of Donbass that they already control and sending them to the first line of attack in the battle, Zelenskyy said. The Russian troops then advanced behind them.
The independent US think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW), which intensively evaluates the available sources on the course of the battle on a daily basis, wrote in an analysis that Russia would probably turn to Donetsk Oblast if the two key cities were captured.
However, according to the ISW analysis, Russia is likely to have too few forces at its disposal to conquer territory in Donetsk on a significant scale – also because the Battle of Donetsk resulted in heavy losses for the Russian army.
In the Donetsk region, Russian forces are also faced with difficult terrain – including the problem of crossing the Donets River to encircle the sister cities of Sievarodonetsk-Lysychansk and then west towards Lyman and Slovyansk.
According to a local official, around 60 percent of the infrastructure and residential buildings in Lysychansk have so far been destroyed by Russian shelling. The ongoing bombardment cut off electricity and natural gas supplies, as well as telephone and internet connections, said Olexander Saika, head of Lysychansk’s civilian military administration. The highway between Bakhmut and Lysychansk – one of the most important routes for evacuations and supplies – is still open, but is constantly being shelled.
Humanitarian supplies still reached the city, Saika reported. But the landscape is littered with shrapnel and mines. Saika added that if 97,000 people lived in Lysychansk before the war, there are now only 20,000.
Lysychansk is separated from the city of Sieverodonetsk by the Severskyi Donets river, which is also heavily shelled by Russian troops. The two cities are the last areas in the region that are at least partially held by Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made several appearances in a way that has taken stock of the war since February 24. Up to 100 Ukrainian soldiers are killed every day in the fighting in the east, he said in a video link at a security conference in the Slovakian capital Bratislava.
“And a few hundred people – 450, 500 people – are injured every day.” A fifth of Ukraine’s territory is currently occupied by Russia, he said in a switchboard in the Luxembourg parliament. He thanked foreign partners for arms deliveries.
Zelenskyj said in his 100-day report of the war that Russian troops had marched into 3,620 towns in Ukraine, 1,017 of which had been liberated. Twelve million Ukrainians are fleeing the country; five million abroad. Russia has lost over 30,000 soldiers, Zelenskyy claimed. Western experts also suspect heavy Russian losses, but consider the Kiev figures to be too high.
“Our resistance is unbroken after all these months. The enemy has not achieved the goals it set itself,” said Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maljar. “We are ready for a long-term war.” She praised the fact that “weapons supply momentum” from the West is picking up speed.
For security reasons, she did not provide any information on the time and place of the deliveries. Ukraine wants to stop the advance of Russian troops and liberate occupied cities with heavy weapons from the USA and Germany, among others. Above all, Zelenskyy thanked the United States for its commitment to send state-of-the-art Himars multiple rocket launchers.
While there were still negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv in the first weeks of the war, these have been on hold since the atrocities committed against the civilian population in Bucha and other places near Kyiv. Selenskyj does not want to negotiate again until Russia withdraws to the February 23 borders.
“Kick-off Politics” is WELT’s daily news podcast. The most important topic analyzed by WELT editors and the dates of the day. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music or directly via RSS feed.