Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region saw renewed battles in and around the flashpoint towns Severodonetsk and Popasna, with Russian Federation (RF) information sources on Monday claiming slight gains of ground, and Ukrainian information sources saying the attacks were repelled with losses.

A May 23 situation report from Ukraine’s Arm General Staff (AGS) said RF armored vehicles supported by infantry attempted to break into UAF defenses in north Severodonetsk, but heavy UAF artillery fires forced the attackers to retreat.

Reports of the same assault by the pro-Kremlin Readovka news platform said that RF forces inflicted serious casualties on defenders and pushed them out of fortifications at some locations, and captured the Severodonetsk suburb village Shevrishchevo.

Both sides confirmed weekend reports of the destruction of a key bridge connecting Severodonetsk to the adjacent town Lysychansk, on the right back of the Siviersky Donets River. Moscow state media said RF heavy mortars blew up a span of the bridge on Sunday, and that the UAF’s ability to supply defenses in Severodonetsk was severely degraded..

Serhiy Haidai, head of the Luhansk regional defense command, in a May 23 statement said that RF forces were responsible for the strike, but that alternate supply routes between Lysychansk and Severodonetsk were functional and that UAF defenses were holding.

According to reports widely-repeated throughout independent Ukrainian media, UAF artillery used live RF state television images and news reports to fix the location of the RF 240mm heavy Tulpan (Tulip) mortar system, and destroy it with artillery.

Both Ukrainian and RF news platforms reported intense artillery fire hitting the town Avdievka, to the south of Severodonetsk. According to Ukrainian parliament member Musa Magomedov, recent RF bombardments had badly damaged Avdievka’s Khimik district, and firemen were unable to respond to burning buildings because of continuing shelling. Civilian casualties were likely, he said.

The AGS situation report said the probable goal of the present wave of RF attacks is establishment of full control of Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions, and particularly, the capture of the towns Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Kramatorsk, and Sloviansk.

A May 22 analysis by the Institute of the Study of War (ISW) said that the RF has reduced the scope of its objectives in Ukraine dramatically in recent weeks, due to tough Ukrainian defenses and mounting RF losses. Following Russian army failure to capture Kyiv in late February and March, the RF in late April kicked off an offensive to capture Donbas and south Ukraine. By mid-May RF advances had stalled across the front, but attacks at separate locations like Severodonetsk and Popasna continued.

A May 23 Ukraine Defense Ministry estimate said that, in the previous week, UAF forces forces operating in Donbas fought off 84 RF ground attacks. UAF units destroyed 43 tanks, 20 artillery systems 79 infantry fighting vehicles, seven command or electronic warfare vehicles, 34 trucks, 18 reconnaissance drone and 3 combat jets in the fighting, the statement said.

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