Russo-Ukraine War - 24 June 2022 - Day 121
On 24 February 2022, Ukraine was suddenly and deliberately attacked by land, naval and air forces of Russia, igniting the largest European war since the Great Patriotic War. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a "special military operation" (SVO - spetsialnaya voennaya operatsiya) in Ukraine in response to the appeal of the leaders of the "Donbass republics" for help. That attack is a blatant violation of the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. Putin stressed that Moscow's goal is the demilitarization and denazification of the country. The military buildup in preceeding months makes it obvious that the unprovoked and dastardly Russian attack was deliberately planned long in advance. During the intervening time, the Russian government had deliberately sought to deceive the world by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.
"To initiate a war of aggression... is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." [Judgment of the International Military Tribunal]
One hundred and twenty-first days of the heroic opposition of the Ukrainian nation to the Russian military invasion continue.
Senior US Defense Officials held a Background Briefing, and one noted "even though you have a large population in Russia, you have a limited ability to mobilize additional forces without political costs. So even though we do see this large nation of Russia with what was a large military, you have to see that they are operating within some pretty serious constraints that is slowing significantly the progress that Putin expected to see."
Four months ago, everything changed for Ukraine, stressed President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday, when four months have passed since Russia started a full-scale war against Ukraine. "Everything changed for Ukraine four months ago. We became a country in army boots. A country in tanks, aircraft, ships. A country in trenches and shelters. Our way of life changed, but not our worldview. The path on which we are going to the goal changed, but the goal remained the same. We are fighting for our freedom and our land. We are fighting for the future of our children and grandchildren, for their life and opportunity to build a new Ukraine."
The head of the Luhansk Regional State Administration, Serhiy Haidai, stated that the defenders of Severodonetsk had been ordered to retreat to new positions. The fall of the southeastern town of Severodonetsk is far more significant and symbolic to Russia than to Ukraine. Ukrainian forces were abandoning the town in the Luhansk region, after weeks of fierce fighting. “Keeping positions smashed to pieces over many months just for the sake of staying there doesn’t make sense,” regional governor Serhiy Haidai said in televised remarks. Heavy Russian bombardment has destroyed almost every defence position of the Ukrainian forces in the area, but the fall of the nearly-destroyed town is insignificant. There’s still Lysychansk [the neighboring town controlled by Ukraine], and Severodonetsk had largely served its purpose. The Kremlin trumpeted the takeover of Severodonetsk because it remained one of the few Ukrainian-controlled towns in Luhansk, one of Ukraine’s smallest and poorest regions that was partially taken over by pro-Russian separatists in 2014.
Senior US Defense Officials held a Background Briefing, and one noted "in terms of the situation in Severodonetsk, the way that I view it is the Ukrainian Armed Forces are performing a professional, tactical retrograde in order to consolidate their forces in positions that they can better defend themselves. And I see this as occurring on the heels of their ability to continue to pin down Russian forces over a very long period of time in a very small geographic area. So that's how I would describe the current situation there."
Severodonetsk was the last point of resistance of the Ukrainians on the eastern bank of the Donets River. Opposite the city, on the other side of the river, is the city of Lisichansk. The village is under attack from the south by the Russians The capture of Severodonetsk and Lisichansk remains the main goal of the Kremlin's invasion in eastern Ukraine Experts from the Institute for War Studies believe that the Ukrainians have already achieved their goals in the Battle of Severodonetsk.
"Our defenders from various military formations have already been ordered to go to new, more fortified areas and there to effectively fight and inflict losses on the enemy," said Hajdaj in a commentary for television. He explained that the defensive fortifications in Severodonetsk have been badly damaged and that at present, further fighting in these positions "does not make sense" and threatens to increase proportionally the losses on the side of Ukrainian soldiers. The official said the city was under constant fire and was almost completely destroyed, incl. 90 percent are demolished or damaged buildings.
The information about the withdrawal of the Ukrainian army from Severodonetsk was confirmed by the Ukrainian Pravda portal and journalist Yuriy Butusov. According to his information, it happened during the night of Thursday to Friday. The general staff of the Ukrainian army did not inform about it in the morning's communiqué.
Severodonetsk was the last point of resistance of the Ukrainians on the eastern bank of the Donets River. Opposite the city, on the other side of the river, is the city of Lisichansk. The village is under attack from the south by the Russians. Serhiy Haydaj informed that the Russians had carried out raids on roads and bridges leading to Lisiczansk. The attack was carried out with the help of helicopters. There are photos and videos showing the damage to the road infrastructure.
"The Russians attack from all sides and in various ways - from planes, all kinds of artillery, Tochka-U missiles. They are attacking Lisiczansk, the road from Lisiczansk to Bakhmut, Severodonetsk and the surrounding towns,"" said Roman Vlasenko, the head of the authorities of the Swiewierodoniecki region. The capture of Severodonetsk and Lisichansk - the largest cities in the part of the Luhansk region controlled by the authorities in Kiev - remains the main target of the Kremlin's invasion in eastern Ukraine. There have been reports that Russia wants to occupy both cities indicatively by June 26.
The Ukrainians have already achieved their goals in the battle for Severodonetsk: they slowed down and weakened the Russians, writes the American Institute for War Studies. Experts believe that the loss of Siewierodoniecka and Lisiczanska will not be a turning point in the war. The defense, lasting for many weeks, forced the Russians to transfer considerable forces and resources there, preventing them from progressing in other, more favorable directions. "The ideological fixation of the Kremlin on the capture of Severodonetsk, as well as the earlier siege of Azovstal (in Mariupol), will most likely damage the Russians' ability to make further progress in Ukraine," the report wrote. The Russian offensive will most likely stall in the coming weeks, regardless of whether the Russians occupy the Severodonetsk-Lisiczanska area, which will allow the Ukrainians to conduct a counteroffensive. For Ukraine, the loss of Severodonetsk is painful, just like the loss of any other territory, but it will not be a decisive factor in Russia's victory, the institute claimed.
The Ukrainian military dress up in civilian clothes and try to hide among the civilians of Gorsky and Zolote in the LPR in order to hide later. This was stated by the official representative of the People's Militia of the LPR Ivan Filiponenko. According to him, the LPR forces are searching for Ukrainian military who did not have time to retreat from Gorskoe and Zolote and posing as civilians.
The Kremlin maintained its widely criticised narrative that today’s Europe is similar to Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler. “When World War II was about to begin, Hitler gathered a significant part, if not most of the European nations, for a war against the USSR,” Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said. “These days, the European Union together with NATO are gathering a modern-day coalition to wage a war on the Russian Federation.”
The UK Ministry of Defence reported that Ukrainian forces have announced that the pilot of a Russian Su-25 FROGFOOT ground attack aircraft shot down on 17 June was captured shortly afterwards. The pilot confessed to being a former Russian air force Major, who had taken employment as a Wagner military contractor and had flown several missions during the conflict. The use of retired personnel, now working as Wagner contractors, to conduct close air support missions indicates that the Russian air force likely is struggling to support the invasion of Ukraine with sufficient aircrew. This is likely due to a combination of Russia’s insufficient numbers of suitably trained personnel and its combat losses. While conducting his missions, the Russian pilot reportedly used commercial GPS devices rather than Russian military navigation equipment. This likely indicates that Wagner aircraft are older models of the Su-25 and that the Russian air force is not providing Wagner with up-to-date avionics equipment.
The spokesman for the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Oleksandr Shtupun reported that in the waters of the Black and Azov Seas, the Russians hold four carriers of naval-based cruise missiles. No significant changes in the situation were noted in the Volyn, Polissya and Seversky areas. In the latter, the Russians carried out artillery shelling in the area of the village of Boyaro-Lezhachi, Sumy region.
In the Slobozhansky direction, the Russians were trying to create conditions for the transition to the offensive in the directions Izyum - Barvinkove and Izyum - Slovyansk. In the Kharkiv direction, a group of Russians troops was conducting a defense to prevent the advance of units of the Ukraine Defense Forces towards the state border to the north and northeast of the city of Kharkiv. At the same time, the Russians were trying to carry out assault operations in order to improve the tactical position of its units. The Russian aggressor fired artillery at the settlements of Ruska Lozova, Staryi Saltiv, Chuguiv, Pechenegs and Bayrak.
In the Slavic direction, the Russians focused main efforts on conducting an offensive in the direction of Dovgenke - Dolyna. Ukraine soldiers successfully repulsed the assault of the Russians in the directions of Sulyhivka - Vernopillya and Dibrivne - Kurulka. The occupiers carried out remote mining of the area near the settlement of Dolyna.
In the Severodonetsk direction, the occupiers carried out artillery shelling in the areas of the settlements of Lysychansk, Severodonetsk, Loskutivka and Spirne. Inflicted an air strike in the area of Lysychansk. They carried out assault operations in the industrial zone of Severodonetsk. Ukrainian defenders successfully repulsed the assault near the southern outskirts of Lysychansk. The Russians , with the support of artillery, launched an assault in the direction of Vovchoyarivka, the fighting continued.
In the Bakhmut direction, the occupiers fired artillery at the areas of the settlements of Belogorovka, Yakovlivka and Mayorske. Inflicted air strikes near Yakovlivka, Mykolayivka and Pokrovsky. The Russians captured the settlement of Nikolaevka. The Russians' reconnaissance attempt in the direction of Myronivka-Uglehirska TPP failed. The occupiers, with losses, withdrew.
Russian invaders launched a missile strike from Tu-22M3 aircraft in the city of Konstantinovka. In the Kramatorsk, Avdiivka, Novopavlivsky and Zaporizhzhya directions, the Russians exerted systematic fire along the line of contact in order to restrain the actions of Ukrainian troops and prevent their transfer to other directions. He struck air strikes in the areas of Pavlivka and Vuhledar, and carried out artillery shelling near the village of Siversk.
The assault operations in the Marinka area have been repulsed by Ukrainian soldiers once again. The Russians retreated. In the South Bug direction, the Russians concentrated main efforts on maintaining the previously occupied frontiers. As a result of successful offensive actions of Ukrainian units, part of the Russians forces left the prepared defensive positions and fled to the area of the settlement of Olgina, Beryslav district, Kherson region.
The representative of the Russian Ministry of Defense Igor Konashenkov made an urgent statement about a major turning point in the Donbass. “The formations and military units of the “Center” group of forces under the command of Colonel-General Alexander Lapin, breaking through the well-prepared defenses of the Ukrainian troops, defeated the opposing enemy, and developing the offensive blocked the city of Lisichansk from the south,” Konashenkov said.
Commenting on the course of the Russian military special operation in Ukraine, Konashenkov named the commanders of the Russian troops. Colonel-General Alexander Lapin is in command of formations and military units of the "Center" groupings of troops. Army General Sergei Surovikin leads the Southern Group of Forces.
According to Igor Konashenkov, under the command of Alexander Lapin, the city of Lisichansk was blocked from the south, and the group of troops of Sergei Surovikin occupied the points of Gorskoye and Zolote (20 km south of Lisichansk). Aleksandr Lapin has been Commander of the Central Military District since November 22, 2017. He passed all command positions, headed the Combined Arms Academy of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
Sergei Surovikin has been Commander-in-Chief of the Aerospace Forces since October 31, 2017. Participant of the armed conflict in Tajikistan, participant of the Second Chechen War and military operation in Syria. In 2017, Sergei Surovikin was awarded the title of Hero of Russia for his participation in the military operation in Syria. Among other things, he was awarded the Order of St. George IV degree.
Groupings of troops from the Center of the Armed Forces of Russia managed to blockade Lisichansk from the south, breaking through the well-fortified defenses, Konashenkov said. “The formations and military units of the “Center” group of forces under the command of Colonel-General Alexander Lapin, having broken through the well-prepared defense of the Ukrainian troops, defeated the opposing enemy, and, developing the offensive, blocked the city of Lisichansk from the south ,” Konashenkov said.
The lieutenant general noted that within five days, Lapin's unit had liberated 11 settlements , of which the largest were Loskutovka, Mirnaya Dolina, and Ustinovka. "At the same time, the Southern Group of Forces under the command of General of the Army Sergei Surovikin completed the defeat of the encircled group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the "Gorsky cauldron". Russian troops and units of the People's Militia of the LPR liberated the settlements of Gorskoye and Zolote," said the representative of the Russian Defense Ministry.
Konashenkov said that during the offensive in the Donbass in the area of Gorsky and Zolote, it was possible to completely block an entire grouping of Ukrainian troops with a total number of 1,800 military personnel, 120 Right Sector Nazis, and up to 80 foreign mercenaries. According to preliminary information, hundreds of Ukrainian nationalists were killed, about a thousand laid down their arms and surrendered.
Konashenkov noted that “according to the prisoners, the encircled Ukrainian group is exhausted, the staffing of units is less than 40%, there is no connection with the command, and “the supply of weapons, ammunition, fuel and other materiel has been completely stopped”, “cases of mass desertion are also growing and refusal to participate in hostilities.
Over the past 24 hours, the Russian Aerospace Forces have killed about 200 foreign mercenaries and 100 local nationalists with precision-guided missile strikes as part of a special military operation in Ukraine. The corresponding statement at a regular briefing was made by Konashenkov.
Ukraine must withstand resistance for a few more months, freeze the conflict, and then start a counter-offensive with weapons sent from the US - such a plan, according to former US special representative in Ukraine, Kurt Volker, has the authorities in Kiev. According to Volker, the strategy of the US and Ukraine is based on the effectiveness of weapons deliveries.
Senior US Defense Officials held a Background Briefing, and one noted " the Russian stocks, the Soviet type equipment stocks are dwindling. That doesn't mean we've reached rock bottom. There are still sources of ammunition. There are sources of equipment. There are still countries all around the world who we're talking to who want to be able to make their own transition to NATO type equipment and are very much willing to provide their equipment. They are looking for that backfill in many cases. So what we are looking at is not just how we source the Soviet type equipment and not just how we source NATO equipment to transition it to Ukraine. But we're also looking at how we're ramping up production lines of U.S. and NATO equipment so that we can backfill other countries and ourselves so it's a multi pronged effort."
TV presenter and volunteer Serhiy Prytula together with blogger Ihor Lachenkov raised 600 million hryvnias in three days. That will be enough to buy four Bayraktars for the Armed Forces, although they planned to assemble only three drones. This was reported by Lachenkov and the Serhiy Prytula Charitable Foundation . "Ukrainians cannot be defeated. They are told "10% is missing", and they are collecting for the 4th "Bayraktar" , - they say in the fund. They also thank every person and every business that joined this initiative: “You have proved that it is impossible for Ukrainians to do so. You have proved that every hryvnia has weight. "
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) exposed a group associated with Russian military intelligence led by Ukrainian deputy Andriy Derkacz; the purpose of this structure was to support the enemy's actions during the invasion of Ukraine. From 2016, Derkacz was to cooperate with the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. The deputy was directly contacted by the GRU chiefs - the head of the service, Igor Kostyukov, and his first deputy, Vladimir Alekseev.
According to SBU, the main task of Derkacz was to coordinate the activities of private security companies in various regions of Ukraine. "(Politician) received money from GRU for establishing these companies. Then it was planned to use (security forces) during the occupation of Ukrainian territory (by the Russians). GRU spent $ 3-4 million every few months on the implementation of these tasks. According to the materials of the investigation, a large part of the money ended up in Derkacz's pocket,"" said the SBU spokesman Artem Dechtiarenko.
The West will not succeed in isolating Russia from the rest of the world, despite the worsening crisis in Ukraine. Columnist Edward Luce writes about this in an article in the Financial Times. According to him, Washington continues to engage in self-deception when it declares the global unity of countries on the issue of confrontation with Moscow. “This assumption is false,” the article says. - The West is not the whole world ... It's amazing that you have to voice such simple truths. The author also emphasizes that after the start of the special operation in Ukraine, the States and the EU imposed numerous sanctions against the Russian side and tried to ostracize him. However, in reality, their plan failed because the rest of the planet did not join the American coalition, notes Luce.
Scott Ritter, a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer who was a leading critic of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, was interviewed for YouTube channel The Left Lens about the Russian special military operation to "demilitarise and de-Nazify" the Ukraine. "NATO and the United States are facing the kind of moral and physical defeat at the hands of Russia that will probably mean the end of NATO," he told presenter Danny Haiphong. "I don't think NATO survives this." Ritter said "By the time Russia finishes this, Russia will have an army that's the most seasoned, combat experienced military in the world, facing off against NATO forces who are poorly-trained, poorly-led and, guess what, now poorly-equipped because they gave all their weapons away".
retired US Army Colonel Douglas MacGregor told Fox News' Tucker Carlson that US President Joe Biden's administration was sending token numbers of weapons to Ukraine to avoid acknowledging that it had lost its proxy war. "It's hard, when you look at something this ridiculous, not to conclude that this is a face-saving measure on the part of the administration that really doesn't want to admit that this war was lost a long time ago," MacGregor said.
Ukraine should give up its eastern Donbass territories in order to reach a ceasefire with Russia, the Church of England's Bishop of Leeds Rt Revd Nick Baines said. According to him, the UK's objectives in the ongoing conflict are "unclear", while the anti-Russian sanctions used by the Western countries are "blunt" instruments that are affecting all of the Russian people. "It would be morally problematic to oppose a reasonable agreement to end the war and spare the people of Ukraine further terrible suffering in the hope of securing additional advantage through a protracted conflict," Baines wrote in the documents published ahead of the General Synod.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for his part, said he is not going to urge Western leaders to put pressure on Kiev so that it moves toward a peace deal. “Now is not the time to settle and encourage the Ukrainians to settle for a bad peace, for a peace for which they are invited to give up chunks of their territory in return for a ceasefire," Johnson stated.
The head of the German Ministry of Economy, Robert Habeck, accused the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, of wanting to cause unrest in Germany due to high gas prices. "This is the best breeding ground for populism, which is to undermine our liberal democracy from the inside" assessed the minister.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine will starve 40-50 million people this year, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Berlin. Russia is solely responsible for this, and the food crisis cannot be justified by sanctions imposed by the West, he stressed.