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Ukraine conflict: Russia launches new offensive in southern Donbas

Russia began a new offensive in southern Donbas on 19 May. (Janes)

Russia has begun a new offensive likely aimed at closing an encirclement around the city of Severodonetsk in western Luhansk. The city is currently Ukraine's most easterly position in the Donbas and is effectively surrounded on three sides by Russian forces. Its only supply lines to the rest of Ukraine are two roads: the T1302 in the south and the T0513 in the north. The unfolding Russian offensive is likely aimed at securing these roads – Russian forces captured a portion of the T1302 on 24 May – isolating the Ukrainian forces in the Severodonetsk area.

Russia's offensive began on 19 May when a force spearheaded by Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) advanced some 15 km west from the recently captured town of Popasna around 80 km northeast of Donetsk, according to pro-Kremlin media.

Russian forces captured at least three small settlements leading to the T1302 on 19–20 May, after which the advance appeared to stall in the face of Ukrainian attacks against Russian logistics and support columns. Russian strikes on Severdonetsk have also destroyed the central bridge that is one of three Ukrainian lines of communication into the town.

Russian forces made further gains on 23 May, entering the town of Vasylivka around 15 km northwest of Popasna. Foreign media reported on 24 May that Russian troops had seized a portion of the T1302 around 2 km north of Soledar. Hauer also reported that Ukrainian forces are “struggling to contain the [Russian] advance”.

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