Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is calling on the West for more weapons. Photo: President of Ukraine

Summary/Overview

A second sub-salient of the Donbas salient, centered on the town of Borivske southeast of Lysychansk, has been closed by Russian forces. The Ukrainian General Staff (UGS) announced that Borivske had fallen.

Most of the 2,000 Ukrainian troops trapped since last week in the Hirske to Zolote sub-salient have been cleared out. The escape gap to the west has narrowed to ten from 25 kilometers a week ago.

Current
A week ago

Russian troops are closing on the city of Lsyschansk from the south, southwest and northwest. The main road from Bakhmut to Lysychansk is closed, and the resupply of Ukrainian forces remaining in Lysychansk is forced onto small back roads.

The Russian push southeast from Izyum toward the transport hub of Slovyansk continues. The UGS reports massing of Russian forces south and southwest of Lyman for a pincer move on Slovyansk.

In the Northeast, Russian forces continue to build out defensive positions north and northeast of Kharkiv. Russian artillery is continually hitting the northern suburbs of Kharkiv.

In the South, nine Russian Onyx cruise missiles struck the city of Mykolaiv. The city’s mayor has reiterated his call for citizens to evacuate yet some 230,000 remain. There is growing speculation by Western military analysts that Mykolaiv and then Odessa will be major Russian targets after Donbas operations wind down.

The G7 meeting at Elmau Castle (Bavaria) listened to a speech by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

He stated Ukrainian troops would have a much harder time fighting against Russian forces once harsh winter conditions take hold and urged the G7 to do their utmost to end the conflict by the end of the year while asking for anti-aircraft defense systems as well as unspecified security guarantees.

According to US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Zelensky is intent on gaining the upper hand over Russia as quickly as possible. “He was very much focused on trying to ensure that Ukraine is in as advantageous a position on the battlefield as possible in the next months as opposed to the next years, because he believes that a grinding conflict is not in the interest of the Ukrainian people,” Sullivan told CNN.

Russia fired air-to-surface missiles from Tu-95 bombers into Kiev, claiming the target was the Artem missiles production facility.

Center/East

Lysychansk, the twin city of Severodonetsk, is now under siege and cut off from most supplies. The Ukrainian head of the Luhansk Oblast, Sergyi Haidai, has asked all civilians – estimated at about 10,000-15,000 – to leave the city. There is heavy artillery fire into Lysychansk from the now Russian-occupied Severodonetsk across the Donets River.

The choice for the UGS now is to conduct another prolonged defense, which would be costly in materiel and manpower, or to withdraw over small roads toward the west that for now remain passable.

Assessment

The fight for Lysychansk is unfolding much more rapidly in Russia’s favor than did the exceedingly slow grind at Severodonetsk.

Another slow-grind siege will play heavily into Russia’s hands. The UGS needs to find a way to regain some mobility and initiative and reopen supply lines or pull out troops, collapse the salient and withdraw to a more defensible perimeter.

Hopes that the arrival of new weapons will turn the tide are misplaced. The arrival of such arms might allow for a counteroffensive from a stronger line of defense rather than simply leading to another defeat and loss of morale if or when the new weapons are introduced haphazardly.

But talk of ending the war by winter with Ukrainian forces emerging victorious and having regained the ground now lost seems a stretch by any count. That Zelensky talks that talk is understandable but is hardly realistic.

Contrary to such talk and the pinning of expectations on the arrival of “game-changer” weapons systems from the West, massive losses of manpower, including their best soldiers, is the Ukrainians’ principal battlefield issue.

Twelve modern multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) are to be delivered by the US, Britain and Germany over the coming months. The US and Germany will also send more howitzers. But Ukraine needs enough experienced soldiers to fire them.

US President Joe Biden apparently will announce this week that Ukraine will receive units of the NASAMS air defense system – a joint Norwegian-US distributed and networked medium to long-range surface-to-air missile defense system.

The NASAMS air defense system in a file photo in Norway. Image: Wikipedia

It consists of an AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM) and AIM-9X air-to-air missiles reconfigured for ground-to-air launch, and a US active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and is capable of hitting targets from as close as several kilometers to over 100 kilometers away.

The targets would presumably be Russian strategic bombers and missiles. Given the current scope of weapons systems deployed by both sides, the air defense systems promised by Biden might indicate significant conflict escalation by NATO. This week’s NATO summit might further clarify the alliance’s plans.

At the G7 meeting, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that the policies of all members are “very much aligned… We are discussing all the topics that are on the agenda, especially staying united in supporting Ukraine.”

He added that the G7 is “taking tough decisions” to help Ukraine while avoiding “a big conflict between Russia and NATO.” It remains to be seen if such conflict limitation is possible.

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