Russia's Combat Power in Decline in Ukraine, Counterattack Suggests: Report

After 100 days of war, the power of Russian forces is declining, says the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in its latest update on the conflict.

The fate of Sievierodonetsk, in eastern Ukraine, has been hanging in the balance for the past week, as the city has become the stage of some of the heaviest battles fought during the entire conflict.

By the end of last week, Russian forces controlled 70 percent of the city, according to local authorities. In the past couple of days, governor of the Luhansk region Serhiy Haidai said Ukrainian troops successfully pushed Russian forces back, taking back half of Sievierodonetsk.

"The city is now, more or less, divided in half," Haidai said.

The ISW confirmed that the Ukrainian counterattack has "pushed Russian troops back to the eastern outskirts of the city and out of southern settlements."

Sievierodonetsk Ukraine Russia War
A woman walks in front of damaged apartment building after a missile strike in the city of Soledar, in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on June 4, 2022. Ukrainian counterattacks are keeping Russian troops focused around Sievierodonetsk, says the Institute for the Study of War. ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images

The successful Ukrainian counterattack "will likely force Russian commanders to commit additional degraded units and equipment to the area to halt successful Ukrainian efforts to roll back gains Russian forces took over a week to secure," writes the ISW, a U.S.-based think tank that claims to offer an "informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education."

Fighting around Sievierodonetsk is also keeping the Russian offensive busy in the Luhansk front, and the Russian offensive is unable to refocus its troops in other areas where fighting continues, the ISW writes.

The think tank confirmed that Russian forces are currently focused on three fronts in Eastern Ukraine: Southern Kharkiv, Donetsk and the Luhansk Oblasts.

On none of these three fronts have Russian troops made any significant territorial gains over the weekend.

This main effort is conducted alongside continued fighting in Kharkiv, the area surrounding Izyum and the south-eastern area of the country.

The success of Ukrainian forces in retaking parts of the city of Sievierodonetsk and "successfully slowing down Russian operations" in the past couple of days is a sign of "the declining combat power of Russian forces in Ukraine," writes the American think tank.

However, the temporary improvement does not point to an upheaval or dramatic shift in the situation in Sievierodonetsk. In its latest update on national television, the Luhansk regional governor said the situation has worsened again for Ukraine in Sievierodonetsk.

"Our defenders managed to undertake a counterattack for a certain time; they liberated almost half of the city. But now the situation has worsened a little for us again," Haidai said, as quoted by Reuters.

But as Russian forces focus on capturing the entire city of Sievierodonetsk and fighting the Ukrainian counteroffensive there, there's an opportunity for Ukrainian troops to make gains on other fronts still held by Russian troops, like in the Kharkiv region and the Kherson area, the ISW writes.

A Russian Telegram channel reported on June 5 that Ukrainian troops launched a counterattack north of Kharkiv City, although the attack was not confirmed by the Ukrainian armed forces.

The ISW reports that Ukrainian troops have conducted "limited and localized" counterattacks in Tsupivka, Turove, Velyki Prokhody, Ternova, Rubizhne and Staryi Saltiv in the north of Kharkiv, but could not verify if Ukraine has retaken these locations or if they were still contested.

According to the BBC, citing Russian officials, Russian forces are attempting to bring about the "complete liberation" of the Donbas, an area populated by Russian-backed separatists. Russian forces also continue to make "slow but significant advances" along the country's eastern border with Ukraine.

Correction 6/6/22 11:15 a.m. EDT: This article was updated to correct the name of the think tank to the Institute for the Study of War and to standardize the name of the Luhansk governor throughout to Serhiy Haidai.