Is Severodonetsk the new Mariupol surrounded, besieged and isolated in the almost conquered Donbass?

How, Mariupol, and now Severodonetsk? After three months of fighting, it was the turn of a new city to face the martyrdom of the war in Ukraine, where the first target was too big even for a Russian ghoul, and the second just surrendered, literally exhausted. After long weeks of intense bombardment. Despite this, these two cities epitomize the tragedy brewing at the gates of Europe, even if it means making people forget Kherson, Kharkiv, or even Melitopol. New featured target for the Russian army, does Severodonetsk fall into the same category, already surpassing its twin Lyschansk?

Unlike the capital or the massive port on the Sea of ​​Azov, Severodonetsk “does not really represent any strategic interest,” considers Philippe Migault, director of the European Center for Strategic Analysis (CEAS). “It is more a matter of code than tactics,” exclaims former General Vincent Desports, comparing it with “the overthrow of Verdun in 1916, which France refuses to give up.” Like the city on the Meuse, Severodonetsk is actually the easternmost city controlled by the Ukrainians, and is an integral part of the lands obtained from the Russians.

10,000-15,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been entrenched

A real thorn in the side, which makes it “difficult to launch an offensive” towards the West for Russia, judge the person who is now professor of strategy at HEC and Science Po and author of the article Aiming for the top (Ed. Denöel). Especially since the city has at least 10,000 soldiers, if not 15,000. Philippe Miguelte insists that “it is in Russia’s interest to destroy the Ukrainian resistance”, and thus these regiments. The conquest, or rather the “liberation” of the entire Donbass, as presented by the Russian authorities, will greatly facilitate.

Russian tank columns are advancing in the same way. Bubasna, 45 kilometers to the south, fell on May 7, and the pincers should soon close in Severodonetsk. A siege in which a large part of the Russian troops is concentrated, as happened in the first days of the siege of Mariupol. Vincent Desports sums up “the Russian effort is shrinking due to a capacity problem,” while Vladimir Putin’s army has already lost 15,000 men according to British estimates, as much as it has lost in the nine-year war in Afghanistan.

No Azovstal Duplicate

What is not encouraged to go for melee combat, nor to defend the smallest street corner. “The Ukrainians will cling to the rubble,” says the former general. However, the pocket of resistance could not be organized as in Mariupol, where the Azovstal steel mills captured the city as the last Ukrainian fortress on the sea. It is a major chemical center,” with tanks full of hazardous materials. “It is dangerous to set up a resistance center there,” said Philippe Miguelte.

At the moment, Russia is content with bombing the city day and night, gradually cutting off the means of communication with it. This Tuesday morning, one of the two bridges that still connects the city to the rest of the area fell, “the last of which is under Russian artillery fire,” says the CEAS director. Like Mariupol, Severodonetsk, it seems, is doomed to irreparably disfigured, entire neighborhoods will be destroyed, and its inhabitants will suffer hunger and thirst. The electricity network was cut off for several days.

And then?

While many of the 230,000 residents have fled, tens of thousands of civilians are believed to be still stuck in Severodonetsk, now with no way to safely leave the city. The martyrdom of its inhabitants and the resistance of its soldiers constitute the “second stage of Ukrainian glory”, the image then Vincent Desports, for which the Ukrainian nation was formed above all since 2014 “and it needs this kind of symbol”. Not falling too quickly after Mariupol becomes a problem in itself, “will be defeats that follow one another,” which is bad for morale in Ukraine as a whole, fears Philip Miguel.

In turn, the Russian army will find itself “in a whirl of success.” And then? “It will be from Slaviansk and Kramatorsk to complete the conquest of Donbass,” notes the director of CEAS. Vincent Desports, less decisive, conjures up the possibility of moving “at last to negotiations”, with a severely truncated Ukrainian army, unless Russia extends its advantage to the south, towards Mykolaiv and then Odessa … Mariupol III?

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