The focus of fighting in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas has shifted to outlying villages around the town Severondonetsk, placing a key Ukrainian supply line under almost constant Russian Federation (RF) fire, a government official said on Wednesday, May 18.

Serhiy Haidai, head of the Luhansk regional defense command, said the recent and bloody failure of RF forces to cross the nearby Siviersky Donets River and envelope the Ukraine Armed Forces (UAF) has forced the Kremlin to change its tactics to frontal attacks on outlying districts of the town Severodonetsk. UAF defenses in the vicinity are under pressure but holding, he said.

RF high command has concentrated “thousands of vehicles…and dozens of helicopters” to back the assaults currently targeting the villages Vojevodivka  and Novodruzhisk , Haidai said. RF artillery has placed the Severodonetsk-Bakhmut road – the main supply route for UAF forces in the vicinity – under almost constant bombardment, he said.


According to the RF-controlled news platform Readovka, a secondary attack was in progress from the RF-held town of Popasna towards the villages Kamyshevakha and New York, and the town Avdievka. Bombardments reportedly hit UAF positions in the nearby town Zolote and the village Hirske.

Past Kremlin statements have named full control of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions as a war aim. Were the present attacks near Severodonetsk and Popasna to succeed, RF forces would take over the last 10 percent of Luhansk region still under UAF control. Haidai said a major UAF offensive to recover lost territory is “definitely coming”, but that it would likely be launched no earlier than the end of June.

The RF on Wednesday also appeared to be nearing its goal of total control of the strategically-important Azov Sea port Mariupol, with both Ukrainian independent and RF state-controlled news agencies reporting hundreds of defenders of the Azovstal steel plant had surrendered peacefully.


Reported numbers of UAF fighters now in RF custody ranged from 250 to 694. According to Ukrainian news reports hundreds of defenders remained inside the plant. Unit commanders and Ukraine’s Army General Staff (AGS) on May 17 issued orders to troops to lay down their arms and save lives, but it was not clear on Wednesday whether that instruction would be followed by all defenders.

RF propaganda platforms have claimed for months – without providing proof – that one of the units in the plant, the Azov National Guard Regiment – is a Nazi extremist organization responsible for multiple war crimes, whose members should be exterminated. Ukrainian independent media have repeatedly rubbished RF fake news reports about Azov, but some members of the unit have sworn to fight to the death, rather than become RF prisoners.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a 17 May statement said that negotiations were in progress between Kyiv and Moscow to evacuate the plant completely and, possibly by prisoner exchange, return the Azovstal’ defenders to the Ukrainian side.

Elsewhere along the fighting line, the AGS reported a flare-up of fighting at a border checkpoint in the Sumy region, a sector that had been quiet since early April. In the Kharkiv sector, site of an ongoing generally successful UAF offensive to clear RF forces, RF units used long-range artillery to hit the villages Tsyrkuny, Ruski Tyshky, Cherkasy Tyshky and Pytomnyk, on the outskirts of the badly-hit city Kharkiv.

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