In their latest intelligence update, published on Monday, the British analysts wrote: “Ukrainian forces have withdrawn from Lysychansk, likely falling back to prepared defensive positions. Russia’s Ministry of Defence had earlier claimed to have completed the encirclement of Lysychansk and secured full control of the city.“
They added: “Russia’s focus will now almost certainly switch to capturing Donetsk Oblast, a large portion of which remains under the control of Ukrainian forces.”
“The fight for the Donbas has been grinding and attritional and this is highly unlikely to change in the coming weeks,” the UK Ministry of Defence also said.
Seizing Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, made up of the Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts, has been one of Russia’s key aims in its war in Ukraine.
Russia exacerbates global food crisis
The UK analysts also wrote: “With harvest underway, the Russian invasion continues to have a devastating impact on Ukraine’s agricultural sector. The war has caused major disruption to the supply chains of seed and fertiliser which Ukrainian farmers rely on, while Russia’s blockade of Odesa continues to severely constrain Ukraine’s grain exports. Because of this, Ukraine’s agricultural exports in 2022 are unlikely to be more than 35 percent of the 2021 total.”
The British Ministry of Defence said that “following its retreat from the Black Sea outpost of Snake Island, Russia misleadingly claimed that ‘the ball is now in Ukraine’s court’ in relation to improving grain exports.”
However, “In reality, it is Russia’s disruption of Ukraine’s agricultural sector which continues to exacerbate the global food crisis,” the UK analysts added.
Meanwhile, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on Monday reported that Russian units have traversed the Siverskiy Donets River and were strengthening their hold on Lysychansk.
Elsewhere in the Donbas, fighting continued "in the Slovyansk direction," Ukraine’s military command said. It added: “Enemy units are trying to establish control over the settlements of Bohorodychne, Mazanivka, and Dolyna through assault operations.”
Moreover, “the enemy is regrouping troops to resume the offensive" Ukraine’s General Staff said. "For this purpose, a battalion tactical group was moved from the district of the city of Izyum in the direction of the settlement of Snizhkivka, and additional units of barrel artillery were deployed."
In the Donetsk direction, “the main efforts of the enemy groups are focused on the gradual displacement of units of the Defense Forces on the Siversk - Fedorivka - Bakhmut line,” Ukraine’s military command reported.
Specifically, in the Baktmut direction, “the enemy intensified shelling of the positions of our troops with barrel and rocket artillery along the contact line,” according to Ukraine’s General Staff.
Russian forces “inflicted massive rocket attacks in the areas of Pokrovske, Berestove, Spirne and in the area of the Vuhlehirska TPP,” it said.
Ukraine’s military command also reported that in the Avdiyivka and Kurakhivka directions, “the occupiers carried out assaults in the direction of Pobieda and Maryinka settlements. The enemy's attack aircraft launched missile strikes in the areas of the eastern outskirts of Avdiyivka and Maryinka.”
Meanwhile, “With the support of artillery, the enemy conducts offensive actions in the areas of the settlements of Vasylivka, Berestove, Spirne, Klynove, and Mayorsk, without success,” Ukraine’s General Staff reported.
It also said that in the south, Russian forces were focusing their efforts on “preventing our troops from carrying out counteroffensive actions in the Kherson and Mykolaiv regions.”
“As part of the logistical support of the troops, 17 wagons with ammunition were moved from the temporarily occupied Crimea to the Kalanchak railway station (Myrne, Kherson oblast),” Ukraine’s military command said.
Two senior Russian generals lead Lysychansk operation
According to the US-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW), two senior Russian commanders are reportedly responsible for "the tactical activities around Lysychansk.”
In its latest analysis of the war in Ukraine, the think tank wrote: “Commander of the Central Military District Colonel General Aleksandr Lapin and Commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces Army General Sergey Suvorikin (who also commands Russia’s “southern” group of troops in Ukraine) have been responsible for securing Lysychansk and the area to the west of it respectively.”
The ISW added: “The involvement of two such senior officers in the same undertaking in a small part of the front is remarkable and likely indicates the significance that Russian President Vladimir Putin has attributed to securing Lysychansk and the Luhansk Oblast border as well as his lack of confidence in more junior officers to do the job.”
All of Luhansk under Russian control?
According to the ISW, after Russian units seized Lysychansk, “Russian forces have likely secured the Luhansk Oblast border, although pockets of Ukrainian resistance may remain in and around Lysychansk.”
The US analysts noted that Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu “announced that Russian forces have captured Luhansk Oblast on July 3.”
The ISW wrote that Russian forces "will likely next advance on Siversk, though they could launch more significant attacks on Bakhmut or Slovyansk instead or at the same time. Ukrainian forces will likely continue their fighting withdrawal toward the E40 highway that runs from Slovyansk through Bakhmut toward Debaltseve.”
“It is unclear whether they will choose to defend around Siversk at this time,” the think tank added.
Meanwhile, the ISW reported that Ukrainian forces “likely used US-provided HIMARS rocket artillery systems to strike a Russian ammunition depot at the Melitopol airfield on July 3.”
Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov said Ukraine launched two attacks on the Russian depot, the think tank note.
Russia to expand control over private military contractors
In another significant development, lawmakers in the Russian State Duma last week submitted a bill that would enable the Kremlin to introduce “special measures in the economic sphere,” the ISW noted.
The US analysts said that the bill would allow the Russian government “to force private Russian companies to provide supplies for Russian military operations.”
“The bill prohibits Russian businesses from refusing to fulfil Russian government procurement orders connected to Russian military operations,” the think tank added.
Monday is day 131 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Source: PAP, facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua, understandingwar.com