Ukraine SitRep - Zolote Cauldron Closes - Lysichansk Blocked (Corrected twice)
[Corrected (twice) below]
In the last situation report about the war in Ukraine I discussed the situation near Lysichansk.
The Ukrainian leadership is still sending new units into the Lysichansk cauldron in the east. The Russians do not mind that. Their job is to "demilitarize" Ukraine. To enclose more troops in one swoop makes that easier.
The distance between the red Russian held area at the the top to the one at the bottom at the most narrow gap is a mere 15 kilometer or some 9 miles. There is only one open road running through it from west to east which is used for pushing resupplies to the Ukrainian troops in Lysichansk.
The map has since changed significantly:
Source: LiveUAmap - bigger
What developed was first a smaller cauldron around Zolote at the bottom of the map.
This was a classic move done by the book.
Then a battalion of Ukrainian troops that was supposed to hold the villages in the upper area of the pocket retreated. Some say they were ordered to leave, others claim they mutinited. The later is more likely as these were amateur infantry from the Territorial Defense Forces who, without sufficient support, had been send to replace better troops that were ordered back.
The Russians on the eastern wing moved west to take 5 villages in one day along the pocket's northern border.
That put the lid onto the cauldron which immediately began to cook the estimated 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers who were inside.
The above maps are quite rough. A more detailed one from the Russian side shows that several towns within the Zolote cauldron have not yet been cleared.
In today's report the Russian Defense Ministry claims:
Successful offensive of Russian units towards Lugansk within 5 days has resulted in the liberation of Loskutovka, Podlesnoye, Mirnaya Dolina, Shchebkaryer, Vrubovka, Nyrkovo, Nikiolayevka, Novoivanovka, Ustinovka and Ray-Aleksandrovka.
Group of Ukrainian units has been completely isolated near Gorskoye and Zolotoye.
This pocket has encircled four battalions: 3rd Mechanised Battalion of 24th Mechanised Brigade, 15th Mountain Assault Battalion of 128th Mountain Assault Brigade, 42nd Mechanised Infantry Battalion of 57th Mechanised Infantry Brigade, 70th Battalion of 101st Territorial Defence Brigade, as well as an artillery group of 57th Mechanised Infantry Brigade, a group of Nazis from Right Sector organisation and a detachment of foreign mercenaries.
In total, the Gorskoye pocket has isolated up to 2 thousand people: about 1,800 servicemen, 120 Nazis from Right Sector, up to 80 foreign mercenaries, as well as over 40 armoured combat vehicles and about 80 guns and mortars.
41 servicemen abandoned their resistance and surrendered voluntarily just over the past 24 hours.
According to the prisoners, the encircled Ukrainian units are exhausted. The units are currently manned by less than 40%. Higher Ukrainian command has lost control over these units. Armament, munitions, fuel and other logistic supply is completely stopped.
Russian troops are straitening the Gorskoye encirclement by launching uninterrupted attacks at the enemy. Half of Zolotoye had been taken under control over yesterday.
Since this morning some 600 have additionally surrendered. The others will likely follow later today or tomorrow.
Also this morning the Ukrainian deputy commander for Luhansk province announced that the soldiers and foreign mercenaries who held out in the industrial area of Sevierodonetzk east of Lysichansk were told to retreat to Lysichansk. In fact a full retreat from Lysichansk further west seemed to be likely.
But that was no longer really possible for the 10-15,000 soldiers in and around the city as a bridge on the single road that leads to the west has been dropped overnight onto the railway tracks below.
Correction (19:00 utc) This sections was wrong and has been corrected. A bridge was bombed to cut the escape route from Lysichansk but it was a different one than I first wrote. That does not change the conclusion
Bridge marked in red - This map is of a different bridge.
This map is of the bridge that was actually destroyed. It is at the north-west of the Lysichansk refinery I discussed in the previous situation report.
Bridge marked in red
A Russian helicopter performed that mission and it now seems that there was a bigger landing of airborne troops west of the refinery.
Here is how the bridge is now said to be looking. Correction (17:30 utc): The picture does not show the bridge on the map.
Correction (19:00 utc) The picture is of the destroyed bridge but it was geo-located wrongly. But that the bridge on the map is now damaged was reported by a source that is usually correct. I still assume that it is in fact so. Again the map was wrong, not the picture of the bridge.
Sorry for this 'fog of war' confusion. The tactical effects of the incident mentioned below stays the same. [end of both corrections]
There are still side roads and dirt tracks that can be used but the whole area west of Luhansk is under Russian fire control. The long convoy that would be needed for a retreat can not pass without being severely molested.
The big Lysichansk cauldron has thereby also been closed. Despite the still necessary cleanup of the city and two or three small villages one can state that the former Ukrainian province Luhansk, now the Luhansk People's Republic, has been liberated from Ukraine.
On the Russian side some 30-40 Battalion Tactical Groups (BTG) have been involved in the whole operation. Most of them can now resupply and rest to later be used elsewhere.