The Russian military is increasingly gaining a foothold in eastern Ukraine on day 94 of the Russian-Ukraine war. Russian soldiers are slowly but methodically capturing Ukrainian locations, indicating that their strategy has shifted.
The Institute for the Study of War focused on the fighting in the Donbas and the Russian military’s expected future moves in the region in its daily operational report on the war in Ukraine.
The Russian military is concentrating its efforts on the city of Severodonetsk in Ukraine. However, Russian soldiers are attempting to retake the city without completely surrounding it.
“Russian forces began direct assaults on built-up areas of Severodonetsk without having fully encircled the city and will likely struggle to take ground in the city itself. Russian forces in Lyman appear to be dividing their efforts—attacking both southwest to support stalled forces in Izyum and southeast to advance on Siversk; they will likely struggle to accomplish either objective in the coming days. Russian forces in Popasna seek to advance north to support the encirclement of Severodonestk [sic] rather than advancing west toward Bakhmut,” the Institute for the Study of War assessed.
The Russian military has taken up static or defensive positions in the northern and southern areas of the battlefield. Russian soldiers are digging in, particularly in the south, in preparation for a Ukrainian counter-offensive and to cement their gains.
“Positions northeast of Kharkiv City remain largely static, with no major attacks by either Russian or Ukrainian forces. Russian forces continue to fortify their defensive positions along the southern axis and advance efforts to integrate the Kherson region into Russian economic and political structures,” the Institute for the Study of War added.
Even in terms of casualties, the rate of Russian casualties continues to slow down.
Meanwhile, on Friday, May 27, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that Russia had lost 29,750 troops, 1,322 tanks, 3,246 armored fighting vehicles, 623 artillery systems, 201 missile systems, multiple rocket launchers, 93 air defense systems, 206 combat aircraft, 170 helicopters, 503 drones, 115 cruise missiles, 13 warships, 2,226 military vehicles, and fuel tankers. Independent sources have been able to verify the loss or damage of 27 aircraft and 43 helicopters, so far.
Donetsk, Luhansk, and Ways Out
The British Ministry of Defense underlined the Kremlin’s objectives for the occupied areas of Ukraine and the two pro-Russian breakaway provinces in the east in its daily war assessment. Since 2014, a sizable pro-Russian minority in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk has pushed for independence from Ukraine and integration into Russia.
“On 26 May 2022, head of the self-declared, Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, told Russian state-controlled media that a referendum would be held if Russia captured the entirety of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts,” the British Ministry of Defense stated.
Should the Kremlin holds the suggested referenda and incorporates the Donetsk and Luhansk territories into Russia, this might give Moscow a way out of the war. Ever since Russian President Vladimir Putin and his close advisers saw that their “special military operation” wasn’t special at all and that the Ukrainian military would be fighting on, more than three months after the invasion began, they have been looking for a way out.
Announcing the annexation of Donetsk and Luhansk could be the solution. However, as is always the case in war, the enemy—in this case, Ukraine—gets a vote too. And a Ukraine that is winning on the battlefield won’t stop until all of its lands is free—presumably including Crimea. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has affirmed the Ukrainian government’s resolution to fight the war till the end.
“If Russia did succeed in taking over these areas, it would highly likely be seen by the Kremlin as a substantive political achievement and be portrayed to the Russian people as justifying the invasion. However, the Ukrainian Armed Forces continue to conduct a well-organised defence of the sector, and continue to impose a high level of casualties on Russia,” the British Ministry of Intelligence assessed.