Severodonetsk, Russian troops slow down and Ukrainians counterattack: has the Army fallen into a trap?

We are in the midst of the war of attrition: one day you gain a kilometer and the next you lose it. In the Donbass the Russians advanced at a slow but steady pace, but the situation suddenly changed. Some experts speak of a culmination point

We are in the midst of the war of attrition: one day you gain a kilometer and the next you lose it. In the Donbass the Russians were advancing at a slow but steady pace, they had corrected part of the errors that had held them back in the first phase and, at least until Friday, they seemed to have taken a good part of Severodonetsk by now. By Saturday morning, however, the situation had changed considerably: the Ukrainians have launched counterattacks and claim to have taken back part of the industrial city.

The invader progression slowed sharply here and in other locations. The harsh street-to-street fighting may also have limited Moscow’s firepower: devastating in the open but, shortening the distance, would leave the Ukrainians greater maneuverability. Furthermore the defenders are in higher positions and therefore they would have a point to their advantage. Separatist sources add that the Ukrainians would also employ foreign volunteers, well trained, while other observers speak of heavy losses between Chechens and the Wagner company. however, it is essential that the defenders are able to keep the supply route open, in order to fuel their action.

The elastic dynamics triggered many interpretations. American expert Trent Telenko came to speculate that the Army has reached the culmination point, the limit of one’s abilitiesand will now have to suspend the offensive: if the Ukrainians have recaptured parts of Severodonetsk where Moscow deployed 25 Tactical Battalions – albeit more defenseless than previously thought – then, he says, the whole country at your fingertips. Just two days ago, the governor of the region Sergey Gaidai claimed that the Russians now had 70% of the city in their hands, but already in the night between Friday and Saturday that percentage dropped to 50% thanks to the counter-offensive.

Own the type of conflict in progress invites caution, premature to say that there is a positive turn in favor of Kiev. Many certainties have been questioned since the beginning of the invasion: it is often not easy to have a precise picture, as the news is mixed with propaganda and confusing signals. For a couple of weeks, President Zelensky had reversed the narrative by warning that the situation in the region was difficult, that his troops were losing between 60 and 100 men a day and counting hundreds of wounded. The soldiers deployed in defense of Severodonetsk were with their backs to the wallso much so that Governor Gaidai had suggested a tactical retreat.

In short, it seemed that the fall was now imminent. Even British intelligence – always optimistic in its pro-Kiev bulletins – warned that the entire Lugansk region, already 90% Russian-owned, would be conquered by mid-June: after Severodonetsk, Moscow would only lack nearby Lysyschanskon the other bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, to have full control of the region.

Instead, presidential adviser Aleksey Arestovich wrote, it was a trap: the Ukrainian army allegedly lured the invaders into inhabited areas by pretending to retreat. The move, he argues, would have displaced the Russian General Staff which is now facing a high-risk mission. The defenders of Ukraine are liquidating their Russian comrades, says the presidential adviser, walking on that fine line that separates reality and propaganda. On the other side Moscow retorts: we have opened important gaps in the enemy ranksup to 90% in some units.

it is impossible, for now, to establish who is telling the truth. Certainly, however, the duel highlights the strategic and symbolic importance of the city: if the Russians were to take it, they would be close to the liberation of the Donbass promised by Putin; if the Ukrainians were to repel the enemyit would instead be a victory that would give even more morale and courage.