Russia-Ukraine war live updates: Russia squeezes Luhansk in ‘indescribably difficult’

Ukrainian forces face the prospect of losing control of the eastern Luhansk region, Western military analysts say, with Russia claiming control of Lyman and its troops closing in on the critical city of Severodonetsk.

In his nightly address on Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainian troops are holding on but described the situation as “indescribably difficult.”

“The Ukrainian military is facing the most serious challenge it has encountered since the isolation of the Azovstal Plant in Mariupol and may well suffer a significant tactical defeat in the coming days if Severodonetsk falls,” the Institute for the Study of War, a D.C. think tank, said in its latest assessment. Such an outcome is “by no means certain,” it added, noting that Russia’s assault could stall again.

Unlike the initial phase of the war, when Russian troops were spread across a broad front — posing major logistical challenges — they have massed their firepower in a smaller area, bombarding it with “devastating barrages” of gun and artillery fire, Mick Ryan, a retired Australian army major general who has been studying the Russian invasion, wrote in an analysis on Twitter. They have moved slowly to ensure they don’t outrun their supplies, he said, an issue that thwarted their earlier assault on the capital, Kyiv.

Ryan said the Ukrainian high command “will need to make a tough decision soon about ceding Severodonetsk and surrounding territory,” rather than risk having multiple brigades surrounded by Russian forces and lost to the broader war effort.

Ukrainian forces are “suffering serious losses” in the battle for Severodonetsk, the institute’s analysts said. Although the city is important as the last significant population center in Luhansk not under Russian occupation, seizing it won’t be of critical military or economic benefit to Russia “because Russian forces are destroying the city as they assault it and will control its rubble if they capture it,” they said.

Luhansk’s regional governor, Serhiy Haidai, said Saturday that the Russian bombings have destroyed Severodonetsk’s water, gas and electricity infrastructure, and he repeated a phrase he used earlier this week: “Severodonetsk is being erased from the face of the earth.”

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