The main bridges connecting the contested town of Sieverodonetsk and Ukrainian-held territory in the disputed Donbas region have likely been destroyed, which means Russian troops may be required to attempt a risky river-crossing operation to continue their operations, British military officials said Thursday.
“Ukraine has probably managed to withdraw a large portion of its combat troops who were originally holding the town,” the British Ministry of Defense said Thursday in a Twitter message. “The situation continues to be extremely difficult for the Ukrainian forces and civilians remaining east of the river.”
Hundreds of Russian soldiers were killed or wounded during an attempt last month to cross the Donets River at Bilohorivka, in an attempt to encircle Ukrainian forces. Kyiv destroyed the pontoon bridges and “significant armored maneuver elements” of a Russian battalion tactical group, British officials said at the time.
If they are again unable to mount a dangerous river-crossing operation, Russian leaders will be forced to advance on its currently stalled flanks “to turn tactical gain into operational advantage,” British officials said.
Russia’s combat forces in the Donbas region are severely undermanned. Some Russian battalions — which usually have 600 to 800 troops — have been able to muster as few as 30 soldiers to continue the fight.
“For both sides fighting in contested towns, front-line combat is likely increasingly devolving to small groups of troops typically operating on foot,” British military officials said.
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