The Other McCain

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Russians Cut Off at Lyman UPDATE: Russia Announces ‘Withdrawal’

Posted on | October 1, 2022 | Comments Off on Russians Cut Off at Lyman UPDATE: Russia Announces ‘Withdrawal’

(Click to see full-size map.)

The headlines say the Ukrainians have the Russians “surrounded” or “encircled” at Lyman, although from what I gather, the fact is that the Russians are cut off — can’t retreat, can’t get supplies or reinforcements — because the Ukrainians have all the routes into the town within artillery range, which is almost the same thing in a tactical sense, but not what most people think of when they see the word “surrounded.”

Anyway, here’s the Bloomberg version of the story:

Russian troops are said to be surrounded by Ukrainian forces in the strategic eastern city of Lyman, a day after President Vladimir Putin claimed the area as part of Russia and held a ceremony and pop concert to mark the occasion.
Putin said Moscow was annexing four occupied Ukrainian regions “forever” and repeated warnings that he’d use all available means to defend the territories. The US and European Union members denounced the move. . . .
Igor Girkin, the former commander of separatist forces in the Donbas, said late Friday that Russian forces in Lyman, in the Donetsk region, are totally surrounded. He accused military commanders of “idiocy“ for allowing it to happen. . . .
Some 5,000 Russian troops are said to be surrounded around Lyman as Kyiv’s forces push to recapture the strategic rail hub in Ukraine’s east, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said he’d annexed the region.
The Moscow-backed forces have no way of leaving the town beyond “trying to escape, die or surrender,” Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said on Facebook. If Lyman is liberated, Ukraine’s army may press east toward Kreminna, he said. Five nearby settlements were liberated on Saturday, a military spokesman said.
“Ukraine is about to capture Lyman and it shows its military prowess again by humiliating the Russian army,” Mick Ryan, a defense analyst and retired Australian general, said on Twitter.

I’ve long since given up trying to get useful tactical information from these media reports, but I keep being angered by nonsense like the description of Lyman as a “strategic rail hub.” It was “strategic” as a bridgehead which the Ukrainians held on the east bank of the Siverskyi Donets river until May and, predictably, once they lost Lyman, they lost Sievierodonetsk shortly thereafter. Whatever railroads go through Lyman, its “strategic” value is as a river crossing.

Far more useful information from the ISW:

Ukrainian forces will likely capture or encircle Lyman within the next 72 hours. Russian forces continued to withdraw from positions around Lyman on September 30 as Ukrainian forces continued to envelop Russian troops in the area.[8] The Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) officials and Russian war correspondents stated that Russian forces still control Lyman but have withdrawn from their positions in Drobysheve (around 6km northwest of Lyman) and Yampil (about 13km southeast of Lyman). Russian sources claimed that Russian forces still control one road from Lyman to Torske, while Ukrainian forces have cut off the Drobysheve-Torske road in the Stavky area. Russian sources also noted the increasing activity of Ukrainian reconnaissance and sabotage groups on the Svatove-Torske highway northeast of Lyman after reportedly crossing the Zherebets River. Geolocated footage also showed Ukrainian artillery striking withdrawing Russian forces near Torske. Some Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces have crossed the Siverskyi Donets River in Dronivka and are now operating in the forests south of Kreminna. Russian sources uniformly noted that Ukrainian artillery continues to interdict Russian forces’ single remaining egress route on the Kreminna-Torske road.

Finding all these places on a map takes more time than most people are willing to expend, but I’ll simplify it by saying that (a) by taking Drobysheve and striking east toward Stavky, the Ukrainians have made it impossible for the Russians at Lyman to retreat northward, (b) by taking Yampil, the Ukrainians have made it impossible for the Russians to retreat to the southeast, which leaves (c) the road to Kreminna via Zarichne and Torske, which (d) is jeopardized by Ukrainian advances from Yampil and/or Dronivka. All things considered, it appears futile for the Russians to keep fighting at Lyman, and the only real question is how many of them can escape to Kreminna in any organized condition.

The likely answer is, not many. Incidentally, one of the Russian units now trapped in Lyman is the 752nd Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment:

It’s a regiment with a tragic tradition of getting cut off, surrounded and all but destroyed. The 752nd GMRR was one of two regiment-size units that, on New Year’s Eve in 1994, got enveloped in Grozny during the first of Russia’s two bloody wars in Chechnya.
The 752nd GMRR barely survived the First Chechen War. Its chances in Ukraine aren’t much better. . . .
There reportedly were as many as 5,000 Russians in [Lyman before the Ukrainian advance across the Oskil River]. Some lightly-armed reservists from two Russian battalions. Two regiments from the separatist Luhansk People’s Republic. And the 752nd GMRR, arguably the best of the units in the Lyman garrison.
The 752nd on paper is a powerful formation, although it like much of the Russian army has suffered steep losses as Russia’s wider war on Ukraine grinds into its eighth month. Before the war, the 752nd GMRR possessed 41 T-72 tanks, 120 BMP-2 fighting vehicles, 36 2S3 howitzers and scores of other vehicles. It’s unclear how many vehicles remain. . . .
By Friday there was no road out of Lyman that the Ukrainians couldn’t bring under intensive fire. Whether the 752nd GMRR and other units in Lyman surrender, attempt a breakout or fight to the last man will determine how many casualties the Ukrainians inflict as they inevitably liberate Lyman in the coming days.

There are some reports that Russia is sending reinforcements to the area, but I don’t put much stock in those reports. If Russia had reserves available, why would they have waited until now to deploy them?

The most likely scenario is that most of the Russians at Lyman will surrender, although some may yet be able to escape to Kreminna. Once that happens, we can expect a lull in the fighting while Ukraine consolidates its position before resuming their inevitable eastward advance, toward the supply lines of the Russian forces now at Sievierodonetsk. That could take weeks, however, which means winter will arrive before much more can be done on the Donbas front.

UPDATE: No sooner had I published this than Russia announced it was “withdrawing” from Lyman. It’s nighttime in Ukraine, so I assume this “withdrawal” means the Russians are making a run for it before sunrise, probably leaving behind most of their motor vehicles and heavy equipment. It’s a complete humiliation for Putin.



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