Aerial view of the mining town of Vuhledar in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, February 10, 2023.
Vuhledar (Ukraine) – In the small mining town of Vuhledar in eastern Ukraine, as the anniversary of the Russian invasion approaches, the battle for strategic supremacy is taking place. It was written today by the AP agency, according to which this battlefield is imbued with symbolism. Vuhledar has become an important place in the fight for the Donetsk region – control over it provides a tactical advantage in the wider battle for Donbas, the agency writes. Currently, the Ukrainian defenders control the city, the Russians are deployed in the suburbs.
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Vuhledar is located on an elevated plain, and its capture would be an important step for Russia to cut Ukrainian supply routes, AP writes. According to analyst Gustav Gressel of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), this would allow Russian forces to advance and threaten Ukrainian supply routes to Marjinka, which is north of Vuhledar and heavily contested.
On the contrary, securing Vuhledar would provide Ukraine with a potential springboard for future counter-offensives towards the south, writes AP and mentions the cities of Mariupol and Berdyansk. The agency also draws attention to the symbolic level: according to it, the capture of Vuhledar would fit into Moscow's plans to bring the entire Donetsk region under its control. Maksym, Deputy Commander of the Ukrainian Marine Corps Battalion. “By conquering Vuhledar, the Russians could easily occupy the entire Donetsk region,” he added.
Russian invasion forces have stepped up attacks on the town since January 24, according to local residents who have not yet left Vuhledar. At the same time, three Ukrainian brigades are deployed in the city and on its outskirts, writes AP, which also noted that it spoke with five commanders of Ukrainian units. According to her, units of the Russian 155th Marine Brigade are deployed just four kilometers from them – on the outskirts of Vuhledar.
Heavy fighting for control of the place cost Russia a lot of manpower and weapons, Ukrainians continue to hold the defensive lines, AP writes. According to her, the Ukrainian defenders can see the Russian lines from their posts in the city and so far they are managing to repel the Russian encirclement attempts. Columns of Russian tanks and armored vehicles are trying to break through their defenses. The city is also being attacked by Russian air force, missiles and artillery. “The situation is tense, but under control,” Maksym said. At the same time, Ukrainian commanders say that some of their units are suffering from a severe shortage of ammunition. This view was not shared across the brigades, suggesting that some are better supplied than others, AP believes.
According to Kateryna Stepanenko from the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russian activities around Vuhledar are not “operationally significant” yet. Even in the event of a victory in Vuhledar, Russia would still need a large combat force to advance north and occupy the entire Donetsk region, AP writes, noting that three months after capturing the village of Pavlivka in November, the Russians have still not managed to break through in Vuhledar, which is four kilometers from it kilometers, a six-minute drive.
Meanwhile, the remaining civilian residents of Vuhledar say they will stay. Of the pre-war 14,000 people, most of whom worked in the local coal mine and nearby factories, about 300 remain in the city. Most hide in basements for days, coming out when the fighting dies down to charge their phones and get supplies at so-called “firmness stations” “. Oleksandra Havrylkova, a spokeswoman for the police in the Donetsk region, urges them to leave. “There are people in the city who do not want to be evacuated, we have tried many times,” she said. A number of them never dared to move away from their hometown, AP noted.