Putin Declares a Win in Luhansk Despite Massive Losses

Russian forces fighting for control of eastern Ukraine are believed to be preparing for an “operational pause” after taking control of Luhansk, one of two provinces in the Donbas region that Russian President Vladimir Putin claims to be “liberating” through a devastating war of attrition that has left entire cities in ruin.

Putin declared victory for Russia Monday and presented awards to military brass who captured Lysychansk, which is located at the western border of Luhansk Oblast. However, former Russian military commander Igor Girkin questioned the significance of the seizing the city in a “scathing” critique of Russia’s performance in the war, according to an analysisThe Institute for the Study of War is a U.S.-based, non-partisan policy research institution.

Girkin, a hardline Russian nationalist who commanded militants during the 2014 war in the contested Donbas, suggested in a blog post that Russian forces have paid too high price for limited gains in Luhansk after weeks of grinding artillery battles and urban combat with U.S.-backed Ukrainian defenders, who are determined to weaken the Russian military and blunt the scope of Putin’s invasion.

Girkin stated that the manpower crisis that has left Russian soldiers at the front in dire need of replacements is seriously affecting Russian morale. Putin publicly called on his troops around Lysychansk to rest and regroup, which is likely meant to signal concern for troops “in the face of periodic complaints in Russia” about the treatment of the soldiers, according to the ISW. Putin has so far avoided a mass mobilization of military conscripts at home, leaving independent critics such as Girkin frustrated by military failures and the Kremlin’s unwillingness to call up reserves and wage a wider war on Ukraine.

It’s unclear how long the “operational pause” in the invasion would last, but ISW analysts and other experts expect Putin’s forces to continue pushing into the neighboring Donetsk Oblast with punishing artillery assaults. Girkin warned that if offensive capabilities are not replenished, the ground could be lost to counterattacks from Ukraine.

Russian troops are working to establish administrative control over captured territory around Severodonetsk or Lysychansk. These two cities, which lie on either side the Donets River, were subject to bloody street battles and constant artillery fires. According to ISW, Russian forces could be trying to force Ukrainian citizens to join their side with its separatist allies and Russian forces.

After months of indiscriminate bombardment by Russian forces and counterattacks from Ukrainian forces, Denys Shmyhal, the Ukrainian Prime Minister, stated Monday that it would cost $ $750 billionTo rebuild cities, towns, and civilian infrastructure that was damaged by war. International leaders worked out a plan to rebuild Ukraine. summitMonday, April 10, 2012 in Switzerland. European nations and other Western allies pledged support.

Beyond Lysychansk, limited Russian ground assaults are resulting in incremental territorial gains as Putin’s army seeks out strategic positions before pushing the invasion further west. In recent weeks, civilian areas have been terrorized by sporadic rocket strikes.

In the meantime, Ukrainian forces are using HIMARS missiles from the United States to attack Russian ammunition depots at 75 km behind the front line. This is a sign that they have improved their military capabilities after months of fighting with invaders with superior weapons.

An apparent sabotage campaign targeting Russian-controlled railways continues in occupied Ukraine as well as inside Russia, where partisans and antiwar activists are working to disrupt the Russian army’s supply lines.

The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported on July 3 that Ukrainian partisans destroyed a railway bridge connecting Melitopol to Tokmak in occupied southern Ukraine and derail an armored train carrying ammunition close to Melitopol the day before. According to ISW, previous sabotage attempts were also successful, indicating a coordinated resistance campaign within these occupied areas.

A self-described “cell” of anarchist militants took responsibility for railway sabotage near a Russian artillery depot in the Vladimir Oblast outside of Moscow. In posts on the social media platform Telegram, the militants claimed the sabotage temporarily stalled a train with military equipment and was meant to show “all the partizans [sic] how accessible such targets for sabotage are.”