Luhansk Struggles Against Russian Onslaught
As the Russian’s continue attacking eastern Ukraine, the region of Luhansk suffers, lacking water, power, and waste management.
From The Wall Street Journal. The 26 people who live with four dogs and a cat in the basement of a funeral parlor in Severodonetsk, hiding from battles between Russian and Ukrainian forces that rage nearby, haven’t had news about the war for over a week.
That’s how long has passed since mobile-phone coverage disappeared in Severodonetsk and the rest of the Ukrainian-administered part of the Luhansk region. By then, electricity and water supplies were already gone. Groceries and all other shops had closed more than two months earlier, when rapidly advancing Russian troops were halted at Severodonetsk and cities abutting it….
After withdrawing from the northern Ukrainian regions of Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy in late March, Russia has refocused its military campaign on seizing Ukraine’s eastern area of Donbas. Russia officially refers to the invasion as “the special operation to protect Donbas.” Moscow stopped considering Donbas a part of Ukraine after recognizing in February the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics, the two statelets created by Russian proxies in 2014. These republics controlled only about one-third of Donbas at the time.
In this second phase of the war, Ukrainian troops have managed to score important successes, mounting a counteroffensive in recent weeks that relieved the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and recaptured a string of towns and villages around it.
Russia, however, is making slow but significant advances in Donbas. The Severodonetsk salient represents perhaps the most vulnerable point of the entire front line. The only part of the Luhansk region still under Ukrainian rule, this sliver of urban terrain dotted with decaying industrial plants is surrounded on three sides by Russian forces. The invading troops are frequently shelling the only road in and out, and in recent days have tried to advance toward it….
Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, separated by the fast-flowing Siverskyi Donets river, are the only major cities in the Luhansk region fully under Ukrainian control. Out of their combined pre-war population of 230,000, only some 35,000 civilians remain, most of them hiding in basements and shelters, regional officials say.
The other residents have heeded the government’s repeated appeals to leave for safer parts of the country or to the European Union while it was still possible. These evacuations were halted in recent days because the road was deemed too dangerous. The same goes for regular deliveries of food or fuel, as civilian truck drivers are too scared to travel here, regional officials say.
People in the funeral parlor-turned-shelter survive on food that the owner ships to Severodonetsk once in a while, Ms. Lashko said. Water is brought back from a stream near the cemetery whenever there is a funeral, she said. The parlor has buried 160 people since March, most of them killed by shelling. “We come out once in a while for fresh air, but it’s too scary to go back to my apartment even for a little bit. Shells keep flying overhead all the time,” said one of the residents, a 63-year-old retiree….
The battle for Severodonetsk is imbued with political importance for both sides. The city has served as the capital of the Ukrainian-administered Luhansk region since 2014, and its fall would deliver a major political win for Moscow, allowing Russia to claim the “liberation” of the entirety of one of the two so-called people’s republics in Donbas. Only one Ukrainian regional capital, Kherson, has come under Russian rule since the war began….
Luhansk’s Ukrainian governor, Serhiy Haidai, said in a Tuesday morning TV appearance that Ukrainian troops have counterattacked and eliminated the Russian beachhead. “The pontoon bridges have all been destroyed, their armored vehicles were all destroyed, and the remaining troops have either been liquidated or tried to escape by swimming to the other shore,” he said.
During that attempt to seize Bilohorivka, Russia on Saturday dropped a bomb on a school where much of the village was sheltering at the time. Some 60 people are presumed dead, the Luhansk regional government said. Roman, a 30-year-old resident of Bilohorivka, escaped that night to Lysychansk. The Wall Street Journal agreed to withhold his surname. On Monday evening, he was wandering Lysychansk’s empty streets, navigating between twisted car wrecks and blasted storefronts, as he looked for a way to get out of town….
Ukrainian authorities are attempting to restore electricity in Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, but these efforts are thwarted by continuing shelling, said Mr. Hryhorov, the police chief. Water services are gone for the foreseeable future, he said. Mountains of rotting garbage have piled up in the courtyards between the two cities’ apartment blocks, marked by shrapnel.
“We have no workers anymore. The municipal services basically no longer operate because all the specialists, all the professionals, are gone,” said Oleksandr Senkevich, the head of transport and logistics for the Lysychansk municipality and one of the few civilian representatives of the Ukrainian state still here. He added that he wasn’t planning to flee: “At least somebody must remain on the job….”
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(Excerpt from The Wall Street Journal. Photo Credit: Getty Images)
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