Putin Dealt Blow as Russian Advance Likely to Stall in Coming Weeks

Russian offensive operations in Ukraine are likely to stall in the coming weeks, regardless of whether Vladimir Putin's forces are able to capture the embattled twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, according to a Washington-based think tank.

The report, published by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) on Thursday, comes as Putin's troops are pushing to capture Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, doing so would place all of Luhansk under Russian control and grant Putin a form of military victory.

Russian forces have made consistent gains in the region in recent days. The ISW report said that if Ukraine were to lose the two cities, it "will not represent a major turning point in the war."

Russian President Vladimir Putin
A Washington-based think tank said Thursday that Russian offensive operations are likely to stall in the coming weeks in Russian President Vladimir Putin's war. OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images

"Ukrainian forces have fundamentally accomplished their objective in the battle by slowing down and degrading Russian forces," the analysis said. "Russian offensive operations will likely stall in the coming weeks ... likely granting Ukrainian forces the opportunity to launch prudent counteroffensives."

The report said Russian forces have made significant gains in the Severodonetsk and Lysychansk area over the last several days, and Ukrainian troops continue to suffer high casualties.

Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of Ukraine's Luhansk region, has provided regular updates on his Telegram channel as Russian forces increasingly press forward in the Donbas region.

ISW reported that on Thursday Gaidai said that Ukrainian troops may have to retreat to avoid encirclement in Lysychansk, which indicates that Ukrainian authorities are setting conditions to prepare for the ultimate loss of both Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

Ukrainian forces have succeeded for weeks in drawing substantial quantities of Russian personnel, weapons, and equipment into the area and have likely degraded Russian forces' overall capabilities while preventing Russian forces from focusing on more advantageous axes of advance, the analysis said.

"The Kremlin's ideological fixation on the capture of Severodonetsk, much like the earlier siege of Azovstal, will likely be to the ultimate detriment of Russian capabilities in future advances in Ukraine," ISW said. "The loss of Severodonetsk is a loss for Ukraine in the sense that any terrain captured by Russian forces is a loss—but the battle of Severodonetsk will not be a decisive Russian victory."

Gaidai said Friday that Ukrainian forces pushed back the advance of Russian troops near Borivske in the Luhansk region, and prevented an attack on Lysychansk.

"The enemy advance on Borivske was successfully halted. In addition, our troops repelled an attack on the southern outskirts of Lysychansk, inflicting losses [on Russian troops] and forcing [them] to retreat," he wrote.

Russian troops were able to seize Mykolaivka, however, he said.

Gaidai also said Friday that Ukrainian troops defending Severodonetsk had been ordered to pull back to "new positions."

"Unfortunately, we will have to withdraw our guys. We discussed this before, there's no need to call this a 'betrayal', no one is abandoning our guys, no one will allow them to get encircled," he wrote.

Newsweek has reached out to Russia's foreign ministry for comment.