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Ukraine War Update, Day 120: On day 120 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military is making tactical gains in the Donbas and threatens to encircle the strategic city of Severodonetsk.

How is the War in Ukraine Changing? Advances from the South 

In its daily estimate of the war, the British Ministry of Defense focused on the situation in and around Severodonetsk. The Russian forces are pushing hard in an attempt to capture the strategic Ukrainian city by June 26—a date the Ukrainian military intelligence believes has been given as a deadline by the Kremlin—and have been gaining ground to the southwest of the city.

“Since 19 June, Russian forces have highly likely advanced over 5km towards the southern approaches of the Donbas city of Lysychansk,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.

The Russian forces are employing heavy long-range fires in order to suppress any Ukrainian resistance before sending in armor and mechanized infantry units. That tactic has been largely effective but hardware and manpower shortages on the Russian side make it hard to take advantage of any opportunities created by artillery fire.

“Some Ukrainian units have withdrawn, probably to avoid being encircled. Russia’s improved performance in this sector is likely a result of recent unit reinforcement and heavy concentration of fire,” the British Ministry of Defense added.

Should the Russian forces manage to reach Lysychansk, which is located just on the West of Severodonetsk, then the Ukrainian forces in the region would be faced with a direct threat of encirclement. And yet, the Russian military hasn’t shown a capacity for quick gains.

“Russian forces are putting the Lysychansk-Sieverodonetsk pocket under increasing pressure with this creeping advance around the fringes of the built-up area. However, its efforts to achieve a deeper encirclement to take western Donetsk Oblast remain stalled,” the British Military Intelligence stated.

Serhiy Hayday, the head of the Luhansk Oblast Administration, in which Severodonetsk is located, said that the Russian forces are approaching Lysychansk and fortifying nearby small settlements while street fighting in Severodonetsk continues.

“Russian forces continued efforts to push north toward Lysychansk along the west bank of the Siverskyi Donets River and made measured gains south of Lysychansk on June 22. [Hayday’s] claim suggests that Ukrainian forces still control the area to the southwest of Severodonetsk along the eastern bank of the Siverskyi Donets River and are therefore not entirely encircled in the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk area. Russian forces continued street fights within Severodonetsk, presumably for control of the industrial zone. Russian forces are moving to complete the encirclement of Ukrainian positions in Zolote and Hirske but likely have not captured these settlements as of June 22,” the Institute for the Study of War assessed in its latest operational update on the conflict.

Russian Casualties and Ukraine’s Claims

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Thursday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 34,430 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 216 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 183 attack and transport helicopters, 1,504 tanks, 756 artillery pieces, 3,632 armored personnel carriers, 240 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 14 boats and cutters, 2,548 vehicles and fuel tanks, 99 anti-aircraft batteries, 620 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 60 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 137 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.

As always, the accuracy of any official Ukrainian or Russian numbers is open to question. Both Kyiv and Moscow share a vested interest in inflating the casualties they have inflicted on their adversary. But independent reporting and Western intelligence estimates largely suggest that the Ukrainian numbers aren’t too far from the truth. Indeed, the Oryx open-source intelligence website has visually identified close to 800 destroyed, captured, or abandoned Russian tanks, in addition to thousands (or hundreds depending on the weapon system) of fighter jets, helicopters, and infantry fighting vehicles.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government is claiming that Moscow has forcibly deported more than 300,000 Ukrainian children to Russia. Reports indicate that since the start of the war, the Russian military has forcibly deported almost 2 million Ukrainian citizens to Russia. What the Kremlin is trying to do in Ukraine is to essentially incorporate large chunks of the country into Russia, much like it did with the annexation of Crimea.

1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.