RF claims thousands of UAF forces encircled, Kyiv says forces retreating to new defenses
Russian Federation (RF) information platforms on Thursday, June 23, claimed Kremlin forces had surrounded many thousands of Ukrainian troops in the Severodonetsk sector, as official Ukrainian sources reported Kyiv’s troops made limited retreats in good order, to new fighting positions.
A June 22 statement from the RF Ministry of Defense said that at least a platoon of men from the Ukraine Armed Forces (UAF) 57th Motorized Infantry Brigade ran in panic from defenses near the town Lysychansk, abandoning armored vehicles and other military equipment. Heavy RF artillery strikes and lack of ammunition caused the rout, Kremlin spokesmen claimed.
A June 23 report from the pro-RF Readovka news platform said that Ukrainian nationals fighting on the RF side “liberated” the village Metelkino, adjacent to Severodonetsk. Rodion Miroshnik, an RF official assigned to the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), told Readovka that recent RF advances had left as many 5-7,000 UAF troops cut off from ammunition and food supplies.
“This is not just a blockage to some road, this means a quite serious encirclement which, most likely, will be reinforced with more (RF) forces and equipment…most likely, this will lead to the inevitable destruction of the enemy or his becoming prisoner,” Miroshknik said in part.
Serhiy Haidai, head of the UAF-affiliated Luhansk regional defense command, in a June 23 statement said that RF infantry following up from heavy bombardments had also pushed UAF forces out of the villages Toshkovka and Zolote, to the south of Severodonetsk. The retreats were deliberate and UAF units had taken up new defenses from previously-prepared second-line positions, he said. UAF troops in Severodonetsk were still holding their positions, he said.
A June 23 morning statement from Ukraine’s Army General Staff said RF units were conducting assault operations in order to establish control over the settlement of the Severodonetsk suburban village Syrotyne, and in the Zolote sector, ground attacks against the village Berestove.
A June 22 statement from the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said the RF’s heavy firepower advantage over UAF forces, particularly in strike aircraft and artillery, will eventually give the Kremlin control of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, at the price of heavy losses. RF units launched an offensive in Donbas in late April to gain control over Ukraine’s Donbas region, but progress has been slow in the face of tough UAF defenses, and UAF counterattacks in other sectors.
On the maritime front Kyryl Budanov, head of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry Intelligence section, in June 22 evening televised comments said the UAF was continuing a recently-launched campaign to eliminate RF units occupying Zmiyny Island, particularly RF air defense and anti-ship missiles placed there.
UAF strikes on the island on June 21-22 destroyed at least one of three RF S-300 Pantsyr anti-aircraft systems Ukrainian military intelligence believes to based on Zmiyny, as well as a targeting radar system and multiple vehicles, he said.
Kremlin spokesmen on June 22 confirmed the strikes took place and claimed the UAF used, among other systems, US-made M777 howitzers and Soviet-made Uragan rocket artillery systems to hit the island. Located in the north-west Black Sea, Zmiyny lies some 65-75 km. from UAF firing points in Ukraine’s Odesa region. The maximum range of an M777 is 40 km, and the maximum range of an Uragan is 35 km.
Official Ukrainian sources had not said what weapons it used in the Zmiyny strikes. Some independent Ukrainian media have suggested US-made rocket artillery systems, respectively called HIMARS and M270, could have carried out the attacks because both weapons are capable of firing precision-guided rockets at targets up to 150 km’ distant.
According to news reports, the Pentagon was planning to make the first deliveries of both systems to Ukraine in late June.
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