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Groups of fewer than 30 troops wage a bloody battle for key Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk


A Ukrainian soldier looks on during heavy fighting in Severodonetsk. Photo: Oleksandr Ratushniak

A Ukrainian soldier looks on during heavy fighting in Severodonetsk. Photo: Oleksandr Ratushniak

A Ukrainian soldier looks on during heavy fighting in Severodonetsk. Photo: Oleksandr Ratushniak

The bloody battle for the key city of Severodonetsk is now being conducted by depleted battle groups of fewer than 30 troops operating on foot.

Western intelligence suggests some Russian battalion tactical groups, typically comprised of 600 to 800 troops, operating in the area had been reduced as the army faces major shortages.

Serhiy Haidai, the regional governor of Luhansk, said Moscow had lost hundreds of troops in the fierce street-to-street fighting over the remaining Ukrainian-controlled areas of the city. Ukraine is also thought to be losing as many as 200 soldiers a day.

The Kremlin has been forced to deploy reservists with little combat experience in its attempt to capture the town, the last held by Kyiv in the eastern Luhansk region, Mr Haidai added.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence said: “Russia’s combat force in the Donbas is highly likely to be operating in increasingly ad hoc and severely undermanned groupings. For both sides fighting in the contested towns, front-line combat is likely increasingly devolving to small groups of troops typically operating on foot.”

The ministry also reported that Ukraine had withdrawn troops to strategic defence positions out of Severodonetsk, probably across the Siverskyi Donets river before its main crossings were destroyed.

But local officials have warned that Russia still has a significant advantage in heavy weaponry, using artillery attacks to pummel resistance fighters into submission before launching ground attacks. Similar tactics are being used in other Donbas towns such as neighbouring Lysychansk, according to the Ukrainian armed forces.

The Institute for the Study of War, a US-based think tank, said Russian forces were launching ground assaults on the city, but have been unable to capture the Azot chemical plant. Around 500 people, including civilians and Ukrainian fighters, are sheltering in bunkers below the sprawling industrial complex on the outskirts of Severodonetsk.

It is considered one of the last hold-outs preventing the city from falling completely into Russian hands.

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“Every day it becomes more and more difficult because the Russians are pulling more and more weapons into the city, and trying to storm it from several directions,” Sievierodonetsk mayor Oleksandr Stryuk said.

Meanwhile, an airstrike yesterday hit a building sheltering civilians in Lysychansk across the river, killing at least three and wounding at least seven, Mr Haidai said.

In the south, Ukraine says its forces have been making inroads into Kherson province, which Russia occupied early in its invasion. There has been little independent reporting to confirm battlefield positions in the area.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]

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