Ukrainian forces advance deeper into the Donbas as the situation in Eastern Ukraine escalates

On June 7-8 there was fierce fighting for the Zholobok settlement in the Luhansk region. Both the Ukrainian side and the separatists reported dozens of killed and injured.

As early as June 2, one of the battalions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) of the 93rd Mechanized Brigade suddenly moved forward into the gray zone from the Krymskoye settlement in the south towards the separatists’ position along the Bakhmut route. The Ukrainian military managed to advance half a kilometer directly forward, and nearly a kilometer on the flanks. According to the Minsk agreements from September 2014, the entire Bakhmut route is supposed to be under the AFU’s control, as well as Debaltseve and Vuhlehirsk. Consequently, any change in the line of conflict in this zone can be considered exclusively advancement in the AFU’s own territory.

This advancement caused a lot of strategic and tactical problems for the separatists – directly opposite the captured territory lies the intersection of the Bakhmut route and the road to Stakhanov (after the decommunization of Kadievka) with the previous roadblock no. 31, taken by the separatists during the Debaltseve operation in January 2015. The advancement of the AFU has brought a large section of the Bakhmut route within the firing range of the Ukrainian artillery.

The AFU’s advancement in this region was necessitated by many things – it is practically the only place on the Luhansk front where the AFU’s positions are located behind the Siversky Donets, and the only road along which the armed forces in the area of the Krymske and Sokolniki settlements receive supplies, and since it runs along the other bank, it can easily be hit with artillery fire.

On the western flank, the positions of the Ukrainian military approached the Zholobok settlement, which was also unacceptable for the separatists. This is why the serious escalation took place here. After pulling up the artillery, the separatists proceeded with a counter attack. However, the AFU pushed back capturing the heights near Zholobok and even, according to some reports, taking the entire village under control.

Former separatist commander Igor Strelkov-Girkin wrote on his VKontakte  (Russian social network) page that Ukrainian forces had already entered Zholobok.

“Zholobok is being shared by a Ghost [separatist battalion] (as well as divisions of the 4th brigade and some Cossacks who arrived to help) with the Ukrainians. The center of the town is controlled by the corps [separatists]. And part of the settlement was controlled by the Ukrainians from time to time and before the start of the attack (located in the “gray zone”). The Ukrainians still have the positions on the captured heights for now. Fierce artillery fire is continuing in the region, the escalation has not ended yet,” Strelkov reported.

There is currently no firm support for the information that the Ukrainian forces have captured the settlement of Zholobok but the separatist media has not been able to show any television stories from Zholobok, and instead has been broadcasting its reports against the background of the Donetskyi settlement, which is close to the hostile engagement region.

Over the course of June 7, two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 11 people were wounded. One of the casualties and 8 of the injuries took place around Zholobok. Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense on matters of the Anti-Terrorist Operation (as the war in the Donbas is called in Ukraine) reported that the situation around the Zholobok settlement in the Luhansk region had stabilized after intense fighting in this area on June 7.

  Donbas, War in Ukraine, Armed Forces