2022 Special Military Operation in Ukraine - Donbas cauldron

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Classic pincer movement:[1] the Donbas cauldron (in green), March 9, 2022. Half the Armed Forces of Ukraine were being encircled. Zelensky ordered an increased mobilization.

The cities of Severodonetsk (pop.110,000), Kramatorsk (pop. 150,000), and Slovyansk (pop. 107,000), south of the Izium front, formed the heart of the cauldron.

On March 7, 2022, Russian state media announced that half of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) - 120,000 soldiers - were trapped in the Donbas cauldron.[2] The Donbas cauldron was confirmed closed on March 14, 2022.[3] By March 27, 2022, it was estimated that close to half of this force has already been killed, wounded, taken prisoner, or probably accounting for by far most, deserted and fled.

The city of Volnovakha was liberated on March 11, 2022.[4]

To free up strength for the encirclement of what remained of the Ukrainian army group in the Donbas, Russian units were partially de-blockaded and redeployed away from Sumy to the northwest and Nikolaev to the southwest. The forces redeployed from Sumy moved through Russia proper towards the Izium area. Fresh forces also were brought in through the port of Berdiansk on the Sea of Azov, where a Russian cargo ship was set on fire and sunk under unclear circumstances.[5]

Survivors allege that Ukrainian terrorists took hostage more than 70 people who were in the Kremensk boarding school for the elderly and disabled. As a result of a fire caused by shelling from the Ukronazis, more than 50 people were burned alive. Ukrainian nationalists used employees and wards as human shields. The command decided to occupy the building. The defense was organized on the third floor. Below were people who could not move on their own. Ukrainian media reported that the orphanage was shelled by the Russian armed forces and the People's Militia. However, the survivors blame the Kyiv security forces for this.[6]

By the time the Mariupol cauldron was boiling over on April 1, 2022, some 60,000 Ukrainian forces remained trapped, lacking fuel, in the Donbas cauldron.

On April 10, 2022 Volodymyr Zelensky ordered the AFU to attack the territory of the Russian Federation.[7]

Developing encirclements, May 30, 2022.

On April 13, 2022, it was reported that Ukraine formed three new battalions from the Alekseevska, Kachanivska and 43rd penal colonies in Kharkiv, where those convicted of grave and especially grave crimes were kept. These new battalions are supposed to blockade Kharkiv from the southern side and by no means allow the local population to leave the city and the subsequent retreat of AFU combat units.

On May 7, 2022, six civilian vehicles with white flags mounted on them were shot at by AFU soldiers on a stretch of road between Staryi and Novyi Saltov. The photo and video footage were made by specialists from the AFU's Centre for Information and Psychological Operations.

On May 13, 2022, Armed Forces of Ukraine shelled the civilian areas in the city of Gorlovka (pop. 240,000).[8]

The difficulty Russians experienced in establishing a crossing over the Seversky Donets river during the month of May caused the development of multiple mini-cauldrons, or "boilers" throughout the Donbas front. The strategic use of kesselschlacht or cauldron warfare does not require the complete physical encirclement of enemy forces - encirclement can be achieved by artillery fire control of escape routes.

Strategic and tactical military logic would dictate that the Kyiv regime and its Western allies withdraw AFU troops slowly from the cauldron, line to line, with the task of inflicting the maximum possible losses on the advancing Russian troops and, as far as possible, maintaining the combat capability of their troops deployed in the west bank regions of the Seversky Donets river, while accumulating reserves. At the same turn, it was advisable to deploy the equipment received from NATO. But the Ukrainians did not do all this. On the contrary, Kyiv threw more and more reserves into the Donbas meat grinder, which were methodically destroyed by Russian artillery, aircraft and missile strikes.

On May 27, 2022 The Washington Post finally reported in an article entitled, Ukrainian Volunteer Fighters In The East Feel Abandoned, on the fighting men's fate. In mid February 2022 they were still civilians. They 'volunteered' for the territorial defense with the hope of serving near their homes, to avoid a draft into the army:

"Stuck in their trenches, the Ukrainian volunteers lived off a potato per day as Russian forces pounded them with artillery and Grad rockets on a key eastern front line…Outnumbered, untrained and clutching only light weapons, the men prayed for the barrage to end — and for their own tanks to stop targeting the Russians...[A]fter three months of war, this company of 120 men is down to 54 because of deaths, injuries and desertions.

The volunteers were civilians before Russia invaded on Feb. 24, and they never expected to be dispatched to one of the most dangerous front lines in eastern Ukraine. They quickly found themselves in the crosshairs of war, feeling abandoned by their military superiors and struggling to survive....

Lapko, built like a wrestler, was made a company commander in the 5th Separate Rifle Battalion, in charge of 120 men. The similarly burly Khrus became a platoon commander under Lapko. All of their comrades were from western Ukraine. They were handed AK-47 rifles and given training that lasted less than a half-hour. “We shot 30 bullets and then they said, ‘You can’t get more; too expensive,’ ” Lapko said. They were given orders to head to the western city of Lviv. When they got there, they were ordered to go south and then east into Luhansk province in Donbas...[9]

96% of Burisma oil and gas production comes from the Donets Basin (Donbas), from a 2018 Burisma promotional video.[10]

The men were put into a frontline ditch and have since been shelled again and again without any ability to respond. They disregarded the orders from above and left. They were then arrested. The Zelensky regime had sent 14,000 members of the ill-trained, ill-equipped, ill-prepared members of the Territorial Defense into the Donbas cauldron.

As the Russian offensive intensified, the pace of surrenders accelerated. The offensives in village after village and town after town was stop and go, as ceasefires were called to allow civilian evacuations.

On June 6, 2022 seven civilians were reportedly killed in Donetsk by artillery shelling from a 155 mm M777 Howitzer donated by NATO to Ukrainian forces.

On June 28, 2022, it was reported that the Ukrainians had amassed about 20,000 troops which had been withdrawn from several surrounding fronts around the town of Siversk (pop. 10,000) in the Northern Donetsk Republic, between Izium and Lysychansk. Another 20,000 were reported around the Bakhmut fortress.

The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded on June 29, 2022, that the Armed Forces of the Ukraine used civilians as human shields in Stara Krasnyanka when Ukrainian soldiers took up positions inside a nursing home, effectively making the building a legitimate military target.[11]

By August 4, 2022, the entire Ukrainian front line along the Donbas front was in collapse.

Izium-Kharkiv front

Since the capture of Izium in eastern Kharkiv province by the Russians in early April 2022, the civilian population of the city became the target of Grad rockets (many bearing cluster submunitions) on a daily basis by the Kyiv regime. On April 28, 2022, Russian air defense forces repelled an attack by a Ukrainian Tochka-U ballistic missile on residential areas of Izium. The target of the strike was the city hospital, where the Russian medical detachment is located providing assistance to the population of Kharkiv Region. “The Kyiv nationalist regime’s indiscriminate missile strikes on the residential areas of Izium and Kherson are a war crime and a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The optical plant at Izium, where the viewfinder for the Stugna-P anti-tank device is manufactured, was seized in early April 2022.

As a high priority in Operation Denazification, on April 11, 2022, the Russian Ministry of Defense reported that it had eliminated a notorious neo-Nazi leader 5 kilometers south of Izium. Taras Bobanich was the leader of the Lviv Pravy Sektor. Tass reported,

Russian troop strength, May 20, 2022, with the Popasana "flower" blooming out.
"Since 2014, he had participated in the Kiev regime’s punitive operation in Donbass. He personally gave orders for bombardments of Donetsk and Lugansk residential areas from heavy artillery guns. He is guilty of the deaths of hundreds of civilians of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, including children," the ministry stressed.[12]

On April 22, 2022, reports emerged of the capture of the largest weapons depot in Ukraine by Russian forces in the Kharkiv region.[13]

The Russians have been firing 40,000-60,000 artillery shells per day, mostly on the Izium front. The United States pledged to send 190,000 artillery shells to Ukraine, which cam be consumed in 4 days. Ukrainian soldiers complained of high losses, constant shelling day and night, of commanders having deserted, no treatment for the wounded, low ammunition, no sleep, and despite malfunctioning weapons, soldiers were told they were forbidden to retreat.

On May 13, 2022, Russian forces took control of the village of Dolgenkoe located 20 km to the South of Izium. The heights near the village fell under Russian control. A large grouping of the AFU was deployed in the forests nearby. After Russian servicemen entered one of the Ukrainian checkpoints, they found the corpse of a woman who had been raped and killed by Ukrainian soldiers.

Reuters June 8 2022.PNG Reuters June 8 2022 (2).PNG
Reuters report on Kharkiv, June 8, 2022 (left); enlarged section from Reuters report showing Kharkiv civilian with swastika tattoo (right).[14][15]

Ukrainian forces blew up a tank with ammonium nitrate. According to the statement of the Russian Defense Ministry, Ukrainian nationalists under the leadership of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) blew up a fertilizer storage facility near the village of Dolgenkoe. They aimed to poison the local population and blame the Russian army for this.

The town of Liman (pop. 20,000), a key railway hub and the only escape route from the cauldron, was liberated in hours on May 26, 2022, with little fighting as Ukrainian forces fled.[16] By mid-June 2022 over 500 Ukrainians surrendered in the area in two days.

The Russian Armed Forces used a new version of the Solntsepek (or Sunburn) heavy flamethrower system, TOS-2, during an offensive at Stary Soltov near Kharkiv.[17] It is based on TOS-1A with significant advantages. The platform truck has an increased cross-country capability, increased engagement range and fully automated firing process and protected by an electronic jamming system.

A 17th century wooden church designated as part of a larger UNESCO historic site at Sviatohirsk was used by Ukrainian forces as a weapons storage dump and was destroyed by fire on June 4, 2022. The mayor confirmed that Ukrainian forces took the monks hostage and set fire to the church as they retreated. The larger monastery however was preserved intact by liberating Russian forces. The same day AFU artillery shells struck six schools in Donetsk again, this time the same 3 schools they had attacked on May 30, plus three more.

On June 9, 2022, two American mercenaries were captured by Russian forces near Kharkiv.[18]

On June 16, 2022, Russian forces destroyed the headquarters of the neo-Nazi Kraken unit in the Kharkiv region[19]

On June 21, 2022, Ukraine received 7 German made PH-2000 self-propelled Howitzers with 5 more expected soon to follow from the Netherlands.

On June 29, 2022, Russian artillery destroyed up to 100 militants of the Nazi Kraken formation and about 10 units of military in the Kharkiv region.

By the end of July 2022 Allied forces had driven Nazi forces out of the area the Russians called Sherwood Forest.

On August 1, 2022, Russian forces destroyed two installations of NATO HIMARS at the Ukrainian Energy Machines plant in Kharkiv. 53 Ukrainian nationalists and foreign mercenaries were also killed.

On August 2, 2022, about 500 Ukrainian soldiers of the 92nd mechanized brigade were killed by shelling.

On August 3, 2022, commanders of the 132nd reconnaissance battalion near Kharkiv refused to follow orders of the Ukrainian high command because of large losses suffered by the units.

In the city of Kharkiv on August 5, 2022, Ukrainian forces killed several civilians who refused to vacate their apartments so the Ukrainian military could establish firing points.

On August 18, 2022, it was reported that the Russians discovered in a forest of newly liberated territory held by Ukrainian forces since February, the decomposed bodies of several women in winter dress who had been executed and presumably were fleeing Ukrainian-held territory for Russian-helf territory in March 2022.[20]

North of Kharkiv, the Russian MOD reported that the feared Ukrainian neo-Nazi Kraken forces, which function as political commissars on the front, executed 100 members of the Ukrainian 58th motorized infantry brigade who refused to fight.[21]

In late August 2022 lockdowns and house-to-house raids in Kharkiv by the Ukrainian gestapo looking for Russian sympathizers were underway.

Fall of the Izium bridgehead.

By the end of August 2022, fighting on Kharkiv front intensified.

On September 4, 2022, the town of Balakleya had no Russian combat troops, only police who were not trained for combat. So did a wide swath of towns and village's across what became NATO's offensive on the Kharkiv front.

On September 5, 2022, a force of about 13,500 servicemen began a counteroffensive on the Kharkiv-Izium front toward Kupyansk (pop. 27,000), the administrative center of Kharkiv oblast. Whole units of NATO countries engaged in the fighting, who simply changed their chevrons to Ukrainian ones. The Kharkiv counteroffensive took place in tandem with the high-level NATO Ramstein meeting of NATO warlords to discuss continued support for the war in Ukraine. By Day 3 of the Ukrainian offensive, the Ukrainians had 2,000 killed, before the Russians organized a counterattack. Reports indicated the Ukrainian Gestapo was already reprisal actions against local civilians. Under a law passed by the Ukrainian parliament in June 2022, any person who accepts food or medical services from Russians is deemed a "collaborator."

By the end of September 9, 2022 RF reserves halted the Ukrainian advance a few kilometers from the city of Kupyansk. From the south of Izium heavy armored vehicles on the front from NATO countries were advancing to Vernopolye and Dolina.

Ukrainian troops removed a World War II T-34 monument in Lysychansk and parked it in the street during the occupation.[22]

Seversky Donets front

See also: Battle of Severodonetsk-Lysychansk

The cities of Severodonetsk (pop.110,000), Kramatorsk (pop. 150,000), and Slovyansk (pop. 107,000), south of the Izium front, formed the heart of the cauldron.

The Donbas cauldron on April 1, 2022.

On April 14, 2022, sources said the Pentagon instructed the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to withdraw all the remaining artillery to the cities on the eastern front – Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhye, where they can fire behind civilians. Restraining the offensive of the Russian troops is prescribed by small mobile groups armed with mortars and anti-tank systems, moving across the steppe in civilian vehicles. There is nothing surprising in the fact that the Americans impose the use of terrorist tactics on their client state, in which the Ukrainian people are taken hostage. Ukrainian sources write about this quite openly, and treat such methods with understanding, and as the only correct one.[23] The CIA-controlled Kyiv Independent stated that Zelensky said there are 44,000 AFU troops on the Donbas front.[24]

By April 15, 2022, the front became more active. Fourteen hours of artillery bombardment across a two hundred mile front on April 19, 2022, sent a foreboding message.

In any city, town, or village the AFU entered, they went straight to the local schools to set up headquarters,[25] making the building a legitimate target per international conventions and rules of war. This was foundational to Ukraine's propaganda strategy and not its military strategy.

On April 18, 2022, the NATO-controlled Ukrainian General Staff reported the number of Russian forces deployed to the Donbass were 70,000, however Pentagon disinformation specialists lowered the estimate to 60,000 so as not to demoralize Ukrainian troops and the public.

On April 20, 2022, AFU pulled out of Ribezhnoe (pop. 55,000) and commenced an organized withdrawal from Severodonetsk across the Severskii Donets river into Lisichansk (pop. 95,000). The AFU launched another Tochka-U missile armed with cluster munitions against the civilian population of Donbas, killing 5 people including one child.

As Russian forces swept through the rural areas of Donbas, it was easy to find were the retreating AFU soldiers had established bases in villages - usually without exception in the local school building.[26] Resistance in Popasna (pop. 20,000) was unexpectedly fierce with street to street fighting with linked underground trenches between most civilian houses. Chechen fighters and the Wagner Group[27] took part in the fighting.[28]

By April 29, 2022, the daily reports of the Russian Ministry of Defense noted that Ukraine was losing several hundred soldiers and some 30 armored vehicles daily, mostly to artillery. A flood of gruesome pictures posted on Telegram by both sides confirmed this. Several Ukrainian attempts to counterattack Russian forces failed. Western propagandists for the first time noted that their side was losing.[29]

On April 30, 2022, it was reported that over 70% of buildings in Severodonetsk were hit by artillery strikes.

Donbas front on May 13, 2022, showing AFU entrenchments.

In early May 2022, AFU forces began withdrawing from the outskirts of Severodonetsk; reports indicated that the Russian military forces were grinding down Ukrainian ground forces by extensive use of heavy artillery. The Ukrainian artillery has either been destroyed or lacks ammunition. The Ukrainian forces have orders from the Zelensky regime to stay in their position and to hold the line,[30] only making sure that Russian artillery strikes will destroy them.[31] Zelensky had been warned by the UK's MI6 about the risk of encirclement of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Severodonetsk, but ignored the warnings.[32] Videos of survivors of Ukrainian combat groups appeared on line accusing Ukrainian commanders of having abandoned the troops on the battlefield.[33][34] Conscripts and members of the Territorial Defense militia, teenagers below draft age with no military training at all, were sent outside their home regions, in violation of their contracts, to the frontlines as cannon fodder.[35][36] Captured POWs at the front said they were thrown into the meat grinder with only two days training.

AFU deployment, May 15, 2022.

On May 5 the mayor of Severodonetsk report that LPR and Russian forces began entering the city. According to LPR military officials, the AFU grouping of about 15,000-16,000 servicemen is deployed in the Severodonetsk-Lisichansk region.

On May 7, 2022, Russian forces breakthrough the heavily fortified town of Popasana. Since the Wagner Group and Chechens showed up a week earlier, the AFU began losing about 150 troops per day. Popasana sits on the high ground, and the breakthrough the Russians refer to as the "flower", which can been seen on a map as Russian forces flood through beyond the previous line of contact. The fall of Popasana cut off the main supply line to 12,000 AFU troops in Severodonetsk-Lisichansk. According to residents, Ukrainian tanks were deployed near residential buildings on Popasna and purposefully fired at buildings where local civilians were hiding. Polish mercenaries were deployed alongside Ukrainians, shot at civilians, and would not allow people out of their houses for 4 days even to get water.[37]

On May 9, 2022, Russians troops encountered a failed river crossing at Bilohorivka.[38]

On May 13, 2022, Biden defense minister Lloyd Austin, who only a week earlier boasted of weakening Russia, called Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu to beg for mercy for the Nazi proxies.[39]

Failed Russian river crossing at Bilohorivka.

As of May 20, 2022 Russian VDV mobile infantry and Wagner group fighters advanced up to 15 kilometers west of Popasana and captured several towns or villages within 3 kilometers of the one paved, continuous, Ukrainian-controlled main road into Lisichansk-Severodonetsk. Without this road, there will be no meaningful resupply for, or organized evacuation of, thousands of Ukrainian servicemen in the eastern part of the north Lugansk cauldron.

With the destruction of so many frontline AFU force, by May 21, 2022, most of the AFU troops operating in Severodonetsk had been withdrawn across river to Lisichansk, leaving about 4,000 troops spread out in surrounding villages and suburbs and about 800 Ukrainian troops hiding from Russian strikes in the industrial zone of Severodonetsk. The only escape route remaining was one bridge impassable with heavy equipment. Partisan forces of Novorossiya were reported to be taking part in the fighting. An estimated 10,000 AFU troops were concentrated west of the river in Lisichansk and 3,000 in the Zolote pocket. Some AFU units were refusing to fight after their battlefield commanders fled the field.[40][41][42][43][44][45][46][47][48][49][50][51][52] Elite Ukrainian paratroopers began surrendering.

In the morning of May 24, 2022 DNR and Russian forces established full control over the town of Svetlodarsk (pop. 10,000),[53] which is located northeast of Gorlovka. This town, as well as earlier liberated Popasna, was heavily fortified points of Kyiv's forces. The highway between Bakhmut (pop. 70,000) and Lisichansk is cut off by forward units of the Russian military.

The Russians introduced the Terminator tank in combat in Severodonetsk.[54]

Relative AFU troop strength in the Severodonetsk-Lisichansk-Zolote pockets, May 24, 2022.[55]

On May 30, 2022, the first reports a partial liberation of Severodonetsk from fascist forces emerged.[56] Reports indicated Russian control of about 40% of the city, with the two battalions of Ukrainian forces trapped in the city retreating to the industrial area as they did in Mariupol. Even Western media reported, “Russian forces advanced Monday into the center of Severodonetsk, one of the last Ukrainian strongholds in the eastern Donbas region."[57] Reports of Ukrainian forces shelling civilian areas of Severodonetsk continued.[58] The Territorial Defense appeared incapable of withstanding the Russian offensive so Ukraine sent in its foreign mercenary contingents and the last of its elite Special Operations Forces from the Kramatorsk garrison. Russian forces identified Polish and English speaking mercenaries fighting on the front line in the city of Severodonetsk. The mercenaries were withdraawn a day later following heavy losses up to 90% in some units.[59] A UK mercenary was reportedly killed.

On May 31, 2022, the AFU carried out an attack on the residential areas in the town of Stakhanov (pop. 70,000) in the Lugansk Republic. Two pregnant women were killed and 24 other civilians were injured, including eight children.

On June 1, 2022, only the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk was in Ukrainian hands. Ukrainian forces exploded a large tank containing nitric acid at the plant.

By June 6, 2022, the Russians were able to establish a bridgehead on the west side of Seversky Donets river. The Russian Ministry of Defense reported, "Ukrainian barrier troops blew up a road bridge in the town of Svyatogorsk in the northern part of the Donetsk People’s Republic...Cut off from the main forces and supply lines due to the destruction of the bridge, the troops abandoned military equipment and their weaponry and scattered along the bank of the Seversky Donets river...Up to 80 Ukrainian servicemen crossed the river by swimming. Russian soldiers have knowingly not opened fire on them." Svyatogorsk (pop. 4000) is viewed as strategically important due to it being one of the key points for a complete encirclement of the Ukrainian army in the Donbas.[60] Russians immediately began de-mining operations.

On June 8, 2022, more reports emerged of Ukrainian forces taking civilian hostages in the Azot chemical plant. At least 800 are said to be held.

Ukrainian tank hidden in Severodonetsk apartment complex.[61]

On June 9, 2022, the AFU carried out about 20 strikes on the residential areas in the town of Stakhanov in the Luhansk People's Republic. The artillery fire was conducted from the AFU military positions in Bakhmut. The death toll reached 22 civilians according to the reports by the local Ministry of Emergency Situations. The city hospital, stadium, dormitory, and residential buildings were damaged. The town was shelled by a Ukrainian Hurricane (Uragan) rocket with high-explosive missiles. On June 10, 2022, there was fierce fighting around Toshkovka (pop. 4,000).[62]

On June 11, 2022, Russian forces took control of Severodonetsk Airport.

On June 13, 2022, reports indicated that the Ukrainian fighters trapped in the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk were attempting to bargain with the lives of the 800 civilian hostages for safe passage out of the city. Other reports indicated that the Ukrainian forces trapped in the plant numbered about 2,500, with approximately 600 foreign mercenaries, including mercenaries from the Republic of Georgia, now facing the death penalty. The last bridge between Lysychansk and Severodonetsk has also been destroyed. Russia agreed to providing a humanitarian corridor for civilians and surrendering Ukrainian troops who leave the Azot chemical plant. One 74-year-old man left the Azot plant through the corridor in the first 24 hours. There was no electric power in the bunkers and the hostages and fighters reportedly were running out of food and water.

The Gorskoe-Zolotoe cauldron, June 22, 2022.

On June 21, 2022, the defenses around Toshkovka fell, completing the encirclement of about 1,800 AFU servicemen, 120 nationalists, 80 foreign mercenaries in the Gorskoe-Zolotoe cauldron. The Russians now stood at the southeast suburbs of Lysychansk.[63] The frontlines around Severdonetsk-Lysuchansk started to crumble. In the north of the Zolotoe cauldron, the Russian MoD claimed Ukrainian forces refused to obey orders and mass abandoned positions in Pidlisne, Hirske and Vrubivka: "Servicemen of a battalion from the 57th Mechanised Infantry Brigade that had been defending near Gorskoe, Podlesnoye, Vrubovka (Lugansk People's Republic) refused to obey the order of their command and abandoned all their positions after losing more than 60 per cent of personnel." Reports indicate about 800 Ukrainian soldiers participated in the mutiny, most of which were pressed into service a month ago with little training. The next day the cities of Zolotoe and Hirske fell, and Russian military commanders met with local civil administration officials.

In the retreat from Severodonetsk, AFU looters left little room for their fellow soldiers in vehicles after looting shops and apartments.

Between June 22 and 24, 2022, about 1,000 AFU servicemen were killed and over 800 surrendered near Lysychansk. Many Ukrainian POWs reported that they had not eaten in days and received their first bites of food from their Russian captors. On June 24, 2022, Kyiv ordered a retreat from Severodonetsk across the river to Lysychansk, ceding all of Lugansk territory. The destruction of bridges made retreat difficult. Ukrainian soldiers engaged in extensive looting of shops and apartments during their occupation and retreat. A Ukrainian special forces commander told Sky News that 80% of his men were either killed or incapacitated.[64] About 8,000 Ukrainian forces and 700 pieces of heavy equipment, including tanks and armored vehicles remained in Lysychansk. Both cities were under operational encirclement. Russian-led forces control the airspace over Lysychansk and Severodonetsk. There remained only 15 km (9 mi) north to south for total physical encirclement of Lysychansk-Severodonetsk with only one road running east and west for resupply and retreat which was under artillery fire control of Russian and allied forces. Thousands of Ukrainian militants in Lysychansk were cut off.

On June 25, 2022, Severodonetsk was freed from its Ukrainian captors.[65] The 800 civilian hostages in the Azot plant were set free.[66] Residents thanked their Chechen liberators and told them how the Ukrainian government never told them that humanitarian corridors had been established for their safe evacuation.[67] Residents told the media how Ukrainian forces shelled civilian areas in the city and looted stores.[68] According to Chechen liberators, evidence was found of plans to convert the Severodonetsk airfield into NATO's most forward base, along with Mariupol, for launching air attacks on the Russian Federation after the Lugansk airport had been destroyed.

Members of the neo-Nazi Aidar Battalion were captured, along with U.S. and NATO weapons supplied to them.[69] Residents testified to Ukrainian mercenaries robbing civilians.[70] At least one civilian was found executed by Ukrainian forces.[71]

The battle for Severodonetsk-Lisichansk metropolitan area ended with the victory of Russian-led forces. The front line of Bakhmut/Artemovsk – Soledar-Seversk became the new hotspot.

Bakhmut-Soledar front

See also: Battle of Bakhmut

The city of Slovyansk is surrounded by hills on almost all sides. The Ukrainian steppes begin to the west of the city. This is why Slavyansk is of strategic importance in the war in Ukraine and was the site of fierce clashes in 2014.

Donbas cauldron July 10, 2022.

Strategic positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) were established on the heights around the city, making it more difficult for Russian forces to advance from the northern, north-eastern and eastern directions. The Ukrainian command reportedly deployed three US-made HIMARS to the south-east of the Kharkiv region. The front line ran along the Seversky Donets River, with Ukrainian firing positions on the heights of the southern bank.

On June 9, 2022, President Pushilin of the DNR announced that the Battle of Slovyansk officially began. The advance on Slovyansk was being led by Chechen fighters. Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi is reported to have asked Ukrainian dictator Volodymyr Zelensky to withdraw what forces remained from the hopeless situation along the Severomorsk front to fortified positions around Kramatorsk and Slovyansk. An estimated 8,000-12,000 troops were sent to the Severodonetsk-Lysichansk front, ill-trained, ill-prepared, and ill-equipped. Zelensky had resisted all requests from all quarters to withdraw the troops as the Russians advanced, needlessly leaving thousands of men to their deaths in a war that Ukraine could not win, only to generate sympathy and money from the Western public and their governments through Western media that reported every bit of the lies of official Ukrainian propaganda as if it were factual reporting and truth.

According to DPR authorities, there may be as many as 70,000 Ukrainian fighters in the Slovyansk-Kramatorsk agglomeration. After the liberation of Lysychansk, more Ukrainian troops refused to serve as cannon fodder because of the incompetence of leadership.[72]

On July 13, 2022, Russian forces entered the outskirts of the towns of Seversk and Soledar (pop. 10,000).

The Zelensky Line, August 16, 2022.

On July 25, 2022, members of the 72nd Motorized Brigade posted a video refusing to fight due to the lack of proper weapons, support and leadership.[73]

By late July 2022 the center portion of the front along the contact line was manned by AFU infantry brigades, which may have as many as 48,000 troops if the number of casualties since the war began are not factored in.

Bakhmut defenders.

On August 1, 2022, Russian forces were reported to have entered the outskirts of Bakhmut (Russian: Artemovsk; pop. 72,000). The Ukrainian bunkers built around Bakhmut were likened to North Korean DMZ bunkers.[74] Ukrainian soldiers occupying Bakhmut reported that civilians in the city were anxious to fly the Russian flag.

On August 2, 2022, the Russians destroyed 130 members of the 58th mechanized brigade, and 70 members deserted and were arrested by Ukrainian forces.

On August 4, 2022, fighting was reported in the city of Bakhmut. With the Russian breakthroughs, the entire Ukrainian frontline began collapsing from Siversk to Soledar.

On August 6, 2022, Ukrainian forces were reported as destroying bridges in Bakhmut to slow the Russian advance.

On August 11, 2022, fighting in Bakhmut and Soledar was reported as some of the heaviest along the front. Russian and allied forces entered the industrial areas of these two cities first. Soledar has one of the largest salt mines in the world, which Ukrainian forces retreated into.

On August 13, 2922, the Russian MOD reported the destruction of the 7th of 16 HIMARs the U.S. sent to Ukraine.

The advance in Bakhmut was slowed because the city was heavily mined with illegal mines under international conventions of French manufacture.

On August 17, the Russian surge toward Bakhmut continued from the north and south. In Siversk, the Siversk cauldron was forming up.

On August 19, 2022, fighting was reported in the center of Soledar.

On August 25, 2022, a Ukrainian counterattack in Bakhmut, where Ukrainians existed in large numbers, failed.[75]

On September 19, 2022, the Russian MOD reported that "During the fighting in the area of the village of Zaitseve of the Donetsk People's Republic, the 24th battalion of the National Formation "Aidar"* of the 53rd mechanized brigade lost more than half of the personnel." Fighting was reported on the eastern portion, inside the city of Bakhmut.[76]

By September 24, 2022, Ukrainian forces began destroying the bridges in Bakhmut.

The Wagner Line, October 25, 2022

On September 27, 2022, the Wagner group entered the settlement of Zaitseve.

By October 6, 2022, NATO/Ukraine had amassed about 30,000 forces around Bakhmut.

On October 10, 2022, unified Russians forces recaptured the village of Spirne.

According to LPR Gen. Viktor Vololatski, by mid-October 2022, 80% of the forces on Soledar-Bakhmut front were NATO and mercenaries, the bulk from former Warsaw Pact countries with Ukrainians constituting only 20% of the force.[77] Wagner forces continued making progress into the city of Bakhmut.

On October 18, 2022, the Russian MOD reported the destruction of three US-made AN/TPQ-37 and AN/TPQ-50 mobile missile radar finder systems in the areas of Bakhmut, Vyemka and Soledar.

On November 25, 2022, the Ukrainians lost 60 troops and 5 armoured vehicles. The AFU 58th Mechanized Brigade refused to fight.

On November 27, 2022, reports indicated that hospitals in Bakhmut were full with over 500 Ukrainian wounded and no chance to evacuate them. AT Chasiv Yar (pop. 12,000) slightly to the west of Bakhmut, the Russians killed 100 NATO forces and destroyed 6 armored vehicles.

By the first week of December 2022 Ukraine/NATO was losing approximately a battalion per day in Bakhmut. The head of the Wagner group Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed that the Russians have the task of destroying the Ukrainian army and reducing its combat potential but not storming the city.

Slovyansk-Kramatorsk front

On June 9, 2022, President Pushilin of the DNR announced that the Battle of Slovyansk officially began. The advance on Slovyansk was being led by Chechen fighters. Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi is reported to have asked Ukrainian dictator Volodymyr Zelensky to withdraw what forces remained from the hopeless situation along the Severodonsk front to fortified positions around Kramatorsk and Slovyansk. An estimated 8,000-12,000 troops were sent to the Severodonetsk-Lysichansk front, ill-trained, ill-prepared, and ill-equipped. Zelesnky had resisted all requests from all quarters to withdraw the troops as the Russians advanced, needlessly leaving thousands of men to their deaths in a war that Ukraine could not win, only to generate sympathy and money from the Western public and their governments through Western media that reported every bit of the lies of official Ukrainian propaganda as if it were factual reporting and truth.

According to DPR authorities, there may be as many as 70,000 Ukrainian fighters in the Slovyansk-Kramatorsk agglomeration.

On April 12, 2024 reports confirmed deployment of NATO French Foreign Legion forces in Slovyansk.[78]

Avdiivka front

See also: First Battle of Avdiivka

On March 12, 2022, the second Battle of Avdiivka, just north of Donetsk city, began. On March 15, Ukrainians counterattacked.

The Ukraine's extensive, deeply-layered defense in the Donbas was broken apart, one hedgerow or defense line at a time. Every town or village taken by DPR forces was an absolute mess of destroyed homes, sliced-up trees, abandoned trenches or bunkers, wrecked Ukrainian equipment, Ukrainian bodies, and the weapons and munitions, disorganized piles of supplies, and trash that the Ukrainians left.[79] By March 27, 2022, DPR forces, with support from their own and Russian artillery as well as Russian airstrikes, finally broke through the painstakingly-engineered, heretofore-impenetrable first line of defense around Ukrainian-held Avdiivka (pop. 30,000). About 15,000 Ukrainian troops remained in the Avdiivka bridgehead.

On May 11, 2022, the AFU blew up a dam near Avdiivka, endangering the lives in civilian settlements and creating a humanitarian catastrophe, in order to slow down the advance of the DPR army and the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.[80]

By the end of May 2022, the civilians of the city of Donetsk remained under heavy bombardment by the Armed forces of Ukraine in Avdiivka.

Shelling of the civilians of Donetsk city by Ukrainian forces from Avdiivka continued throughout the end of May 2022 and into June in and effort to draw Russian forces away from the Severodonetsk-Lysichansk cauldron.[81] On June 11, 2022, a mother and her 11-year-old son were killed by Ukrainian shelling while shopping in an open market. On June 13, 2022, 300 projectiles were fired by the Ukrainian army or by 'nationalists' onto civilian areas of the city of Donetsk.[82] It was the heaviest shelling in 8 years. A maternity hospital and church were hit.[83] There were at lest 7 dead and 22 wounded. According to the DPR authorities, the daily number of civilian victims exceeded the losses of the DPR military on the front lines.

French self-propelled 155-mm CAESAR howitzers were used to kill civilians. The attack was ordered by Ukrainian Colonel Roman Vladimirovich Kachur, commander of the 55th Separate Artillery Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

On June 20, 2022, the Ukrainians used for the first time their HIMAR missiles on the civilians of Donetsk, in addition to continued use of the M777 Howitzers. At least 23 civilians were killed and more than 100 non-combatants were injured over several days of Ukrainian shelling of Donetsk.

On June 25, 2022, Russian missiles killed 80 Polish mercenaries and destroyed 20 armored vehicles and eight GRAD multiple rocket launchers at the Megatex zinc production facility in Konstantinovka.

On July 24, 2022, soldiers of the 131st reconnaissance Territorial Defense unit posted a video message to Zelensky protesting illegal orders. The unit expressed its distrust of the battalion command, had been given no written orders, lost 70% of its personnel, was given no artillery support, occupied positions without equipment and ammunition, were armed only with firearms and four magazines, had no communication with command headquarters, no logistical support, no officers, commanders, medics, drinking water or food, no evacuation of wounded or dead. Helmets, bullet proof vests, and anti-tank weapons were taken from them. They did not receive basic pay or combat pay for their service. Their requests to battalion command were ignored.[84]

After two months of fighting, Russian forces captured the Uglegorskaya electrical power plant at Vuhlehirska on July 25, 2022.[85][86]

On July 26, 2022, Ukraine and NATO forces attacked an oil depot and a psychiatric hospital in the city of Donetsk with three HIMAR missiles. AFU shelling of civilians in Gorlivka killed one and left several in critical condition.[87] AFU soldiers of the 54th Brigade, armed only with small arms and shovels, posted a video on social media about the incompetence and negligence of their commanders.[88]

By July 27, 2022, a breakthrough to the west occurred for the first time in 8 years of fighting on the Avdiivka-Donetsk front. The breakthrough is said to have been partially enabled by the withdrawal of some AFU troops and transfer to the southern Kherson front.

Aftermath of Ukrainian strike on Elenovka POW camp.

On July 29, 2022 Reuters reported the prisoner-of-war camp at Elenovka was hit by a U.S.-built HIMAR,[89] causing the deaths of 40 prisoners and 13 guards and prison employees.[90] At least one hundred other prisoners were injured. Sources reported that captured Ukrainian prisoners-of-war were giving up much critical information on U.S./Ukraine/NATO operations and illegal weapon's transfers, including arms to Kurdish terrorists in Syria to be used against NATO member Turkiye.[91] Ukraine forces on the battlefield attempting to surrender have been documented to have been executed by Ukrainian commanders. A bill was introduced into the Ukrainian parliament granting legal authority to Ukrainian commanders to execute Ukrainian soldiers who wanted to surrender. Morale was reported to have fallen in recent weeks among Azov Battalion detainees at Elenovka as they realized the Kyiv regime was not negotiating their exchange for Russian POWs, and they began giving up more information in exchange for more lenient sentences for war crimes. Russia asked the United Nations to investigate the attack.[92] The Pentagon claimed the Ukrainian strike on its own personnel was 'accidental'.[93][94] Prominent Ukrainian neo-Nazi Andriy Biletsky vowed revenge against "whoever did this."

In late July 2022 Ukrainian and NATO strategists began removing artillery and manpower from Avdiivka, and transferring them to the west bank of the Dnieper for the so-called upcoming "counteroffensive" against the Kherson bridgehead. This action allowed a Russian breakthrough against the heretofore impregnable Avdiivka frontline entrenchment, which held for eight years since 2014 and has been a key artillery firing point against the citizens of Donetsk.

As the breakthrough continued on August 2, 2022, the Ukrainian 54th mechanized brigade lost 50 soldiers to friendly fire. Ukrainian forces completely destroyed members of its own 56th mechanized brigade by artillery fire as they were retreating from the village of Pisky. Ukrainian journalist Yuriy Butusov, who was embedded with the AFU in Donbas, posted an expletive-laden report from Pisky revealing “There is no counter-battery fire, none at all...Russian forces are firing 6,500 shells per f****** village in less than 24 hours...It’s been like this for six days now, and it’s hard to fathom how any number of our infantry remain alive under this barrage...Without counter-battery fighting, it turns into a senseless meat grinder, where huge numbers of our infantry are chewed up in one day...A reserve platoon that tried to advance was taken apart in minutes, with only one out of 15 men left unharmed...All the reserves are spent, the military equipment goes up in flames, and the enemy approaches and takes our positions without any problems after another barrage of artillery...Right now we are losing Péski, all our human and material capabilities are almost exhausted”. Pisky was once a more affluent suburb of the city of Donetsk with 2,000 inhabitants; after the Kyiv regime attacked the Donetsk airport in 2014, the population fell to as low as 6 inhabitants at one point. Russian forces deliberately chose Pisky as a weak point in the Avdiivka front as a breakthrough point specifically because of the low risk of danger to civilians. The collapse of a once prosperous community since 2014 is emblematic of the devastation the U.S.-backed Maidan regime wrought upon the Ukrainian economy and population.

On August 4, 2022, Ukraine shelled the Donetsk drama theater where a memorial service for Col. Olga Kachura of the Dontesk People's Militia was taking place. Kachura was killed the day before in Gorlovka.

On August 5, 2022, the Russian Investagive Committee accused Ukraine of shelling a hospital in Donetsk.

On August 6, 2022, fighting in Marinka, from which Ukrainian forces were shelling civilians in Donetsk, was reported as intense.

See also

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External links