Moscow is sending thousands of soldiers and heavy weapons into eastern Ukraine as it struggles to claim the last patch of Ukrainian sovereign territory in Luhansk province, according to Ukrainian and Western officials.
“There are battles everywhere, and everywhere the enemy is trying to break through the defense line,” Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration, said Wednesday. They are trying to destroy all settlements, and only enter the area later, not the settlement.
A senior US defense official described the disputed area as the equivalent of a stretch of land between Washington and Fairfax, Virginia, about 20 miles apart.
Hayday said that rocket-propelled grenade launchers, artillery, mortars, tanks, bomber aircraft and long-range missiles are all used to clear the ground of life to allow the Russian infantry to advance.
Scorched-earth tactics allowed the Russians to infiltrate more and more Ukrainian positions within the city of Lyschansk, as part of Moscow’s campaign to claim the entire Donbass region to which Luhansk Province belongs.
But even with the notable expenditure of ammunition, the gains are slow. Since June 25, the Russians have managed to advance about 1.2 miles toward Lysichansk from the south, according to an estimate published by Britain’s military intelligence agency on Wednesday.
Russian proxy forces in the area have said several times in recent days that the Ukrainians are surrounded and are retreating. The Ukrainian army denies these allegations.
The accounts provided by the two armies could not be independently verified.
Hayday said Russia has deployed two combat battalions in the outskirts of Lysechhansk, which he said have “thousands” of soldiers, vastly outnumbering Ukrainians.
However, he said, the Ukrainians were able to move humanitarian supplies into the city on Wednesday and maintained defensive lines, inflicting “heavy losses” on Russian forces daily.
The Ukrainian military command said the Russians are continuing to move men and equipment to the area to compensate for the heavy losses.
A senior US defense official told reporters this week that the Russians had been forced to hire reservists in recent weeks.
“The fact that the Russians are talking about reserves speaks to the influence of the Ukrainians on the Russian army,” the official said.
The Ukrainian government acknowledges that its forces have incurred thousands of casualties.
Moscow has made clear it intends to continue the advance – moving from the last towns of Luhansk to fortified Ukrainian cities in the neighboring Donetsk region – and the Ukrainian military said Wednesday that the Kremlin was taking steps to prepare for renewed attacks in that direction. .
However, it remains unclear how the beating suffered by both armies over months of brutal fighting will affect each side’s ability to withstand defensive and offensive operations.