The fetish* of Severodonetsk – TTG

The unlikely defense of Severodonetsk continues, with jaw-dropping results. On Thursday morning, the mayor of the town announced that Russia was in control of Severodonetsk. Then Ukrainian Forces launched a counterattack that included discussion of the whole city being a trap for overconfident Russian forces. By some estimates, only about 30% of the city is now under Russian control.

On Friday, Ukraine reportedly controls a majority of Severodonetsk, including the city center, and has been continuing to gain ground. In addition, Ukrainian forces have pushed Russian forces out of adjacent villages and put a large area back into dispute. The push back into the city center seems to have included forces from the Ukrainian Foreign Legion.

If things start to turn sour in Severodonetsk, Ukraine can always retreat across the bridge to Lysychansk, but at the moment holding Severodonetsk seems to represent great symbolic value and a genuine military win. How much damage they’re actually doing to Russian forces in this location is going to take some time to figure out, but it’s never good to be the army that had been moving forward, then finds itself going into reverse.

Comment: It appears that Ukraine is not quite ready to give up the fight for Severodonetsk and skedaddle to Lysychansk on the west bank of the Siverskyi Donets River. This local counter-offensive is a daring maneuver exhibiting exceptional deception and surprise. Until now fighting on this front involved massive artillery and air strikes on prepared Ukrainian defenses followed by repeated frontal assaults on those positions until the Ukrainians are forced to withdraw due to exhaustion and casualties. Artillery dictated the course of the battle.

In this case, the Ukrainians deliberately withdrew and then hit the Russians at the point when they were attempting to consolidate their advance into Severodonetsk, a critical and dangerous time for any assaulting force. In addition, the counter-attack took place in urbanized terrain where small unit leadership and initiative reigns supreme. The depleted Russian units lacked these qualities a hundred days ago. The fighting is reminiscent of Viet Cong hugging tactics or the tactics of Vasily Chuikov at Stalingrad. These tactics negate the effectiveness of the enemy’s artillery and air power. All in all, this is a pretty slick operation.

I can think of several possible reasons for launching this counter-attack. Perhaps the Ukrainians have determined that the Russians on this front are at or near a culmination point and it was the right time and place for going on the offensive. Or, knowing the Russians fixation on taking this one particular city no matter the cost, the Ukrainians couldn’t pass up the chance to inflict more casualties on an enemy irrationally fixated on this single objective. Or perhaps Severodonetsk is becoming as much a fetish object to Kyiv as it obviously is to Moscow. Kyiv cannot afford to do that.


* I mean fetish in the anthropological sense – an object (such as a small stone carving of an animal) believed to have magical power to protect or aid its owner; a material object regarded with superstitious or extravagant trust or reverence; an object of irrational reverence or obsessive devotion.

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56 Responses to The fetish* of Severodonetsk – TTG

  1. mcohen says:

    Hi. I have a question.why is this a danger.Know nothing about these tactics

    “then hit the Russians at the point when they were attempting to consolidate their advance into Severodonetsk, a critical and dangerous”

    • TTG says:


      This is the point when a force must transition from offense to defense, organize that defense, redistribute ammunition or resupply, perhaps cross level personnel due to casualties. Control of units in a built up area is easily disrupted which makes all these tasks even more difficult.

    • joe90 says:

      It is not, the whole area has been in an operational encirclement for the last 32-48 hours, the Ukrainians cannot have attempted a counter attack to the east since they are surrounded. It is PR BS. The Ukrainian did not withdraw as that would have needed an attack to the west not the east. They are in what the Russians call a cauldron and will be cooked or surrender.

      • TTG says:


        Bullshit. There’s video of reporters traveling the still intact bridge from Lysychansk to Severodonetsk to meet elements of the International Brigade as they prepared for battle a day ago. The much ballyhooed Donbas cauldron has yet to appear. You Putin apologists might as well be waiting for Godot at this point.

        • joe90 says:

          Link the video reports

          • TTG says:


            The reporter rides into Severodonetsk over the bridge from Lysychansk with elements of the International Legion, interviews them in a staging area and rides out again, apparently with a wounded member of the International Legion. This was on 3 June. They didn’t even take fire while crossing the bridge. That wouldn’t happen if your mythical cauldron was in place. As of tonight, four members of the Legion have been killed in Severodonetsk.

        • joe90 says:

          This is a vid from Thailand

          Not endorsing him, just showing how easy it is to find people, who can argue against what you say.

          I haven´t found a 12 year old girl yet, haven´t looked, waiting for you to supply video of you claim.

          • TTG says:


            I saw another report about the four Grey Eagles a few days ago. The full package included the four drones, a ground station and the satellite connection. Don’t know how effective they will be considering they are not at all stealthy like the Bayraktar. Training in their their use may only take a few weeks. I would think training in maintenance and support would take longer. Or will they be flown to Poland or Rumania for anything beyond first line maintenance.

            Why are you interested in a 12 year old girl?

  2. d74 says:

    Thank you TTG.

    Another pro-Russian sound bite.

    It is very long but realistic.


    The short videos come at the right time.
    The second video “on the front line” is summarized as follows: “Before, people did not dare to say that they supported the Russians. With the slow and methodical advance of the Russians, they frankly admit that they are looking forward to them. The Russians will bring peace and tranquility.” This report is provided by regular French TV. ( ‘marconist’: read macronist)

    It should be noted that the tactical views are not in contradiction with those proposed by TTG. “It will be long and difficult. Lisichansk will be harder”.

    The author of the text and blog is a French captain who resigned from the army, engaged and fighting for 6-7 years in the DPR militia. He was seriously wounded in combat. He is not a usual excited (*) but coldly weighs the tactical events on the ground. Pro-Russian, obviously, but critical. And he is on the spot.
    Worth reading.

    (*): he gets agitated on other subjects that I don’t understand, for example he is a Breton traditionalist and pan-theist!

  3. KjHeart says:

    there seems to be some real intelligence on the Ukrainian side

  4. Mishkilji says:


    I came across this recently. Military reform is difficult but this number helps explain why the UA can rapidly absorb US systems into its force structure.

    “Since 2014, Ukraine also has received International Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance, which has provided professional military education at U.S. defense institutions for about 370 junior, mid-level, and senior Ukrainian military officers.”

    JCETs are another tool to expose UA to US tactics, techniques and procedures.

    • Leith says:

      Mishkilji –

      Interesting links below. Looks like IMET is still going on long distance. A WA state National Guardsman who last year had trained Ukrainians on the Javelin ATGM got a phonecon from Ukrainian who he had formerly trained. Guardsman talked him through a problem with his Javelin. 30 minutes later, he gets another call, the Ukrainian had successfully made a Javelin launch & attack. Give a big ooorah to the 81st Brigade, the “Cascade Rifles”.

      • joe90 says:

        The Ukrainian gave his position away unfortunately. Damming really as it shows a lack of EW doctrine or ignorance. Probably given his whole units position away. Was he using a secure phone?

    • joe90 says:

      It should be remembered that unlike the former Soviet Union (USSR) NATO (yes it was NATO not just the US) lost in Afghanistan. The Soviet installed Afghanistan government lasted 2.5 years after the Soviets withdrew there troops. Our attempt was -2 weeks, we even needed the bloody Taliban to come into Kabul to restore order, so we could leave without being shot at.

      Oh and the Afghanistan government only fell because the USSR fell apart, they outlasted their sponsors by over 6 months.

      So my question is this

      “JCETs are another tool to expose UA to US tactics, techniques and procedures.”

      Why do you think that is a good thing? The UA has had 8+ years of NATO/US training and it is leading to the destruction of their country.

      • Mishkilji says:


        Ukrainians are still in the fight. The alternative is what? Surrender?

      • Leith says:

        Putin’s ill-advised invasion is leading to the destruction of Ukraine. Nothing else. Unfortunately for his troops the Ukrainians choose to fight back instead of becoming serfs. and letting him steal their land, their industry, their natural resources, and their religion.

        But they will build back. They are an ingenious people.

        The Russian people are also. If they could only get out from under the yoke of Putin and his oligarchs they could become the light of the world.

        • James says:


          I was in Moscow in February of 1998 when the west’s much beloved Yeltsin was still in power. It was a horror show – about the only place I have seen that was worse was Kibera.

          Before NATO intervention in Libya that country was an African success story – now it has open air slave markets. Let’s wait and see if open air slave markets are operating in Ukraine after Putin has finished intervening there. Let’s also wait and see how good a job he does of winning hearts and minds in Ukraine as compared to how good of a job we did in Afghanistan.

          • Leith says:

            James –

            I envy your travels.

            Regarding pre-intervention Libya: Human Rights Watch said migrants were frequently detained and sold as slaves. Libya has a long history of slavery.

            It never stopped under Ghaddafi. Libya is and has been a gateway to Europe for migrants from the south. There were many reports back then of migrant women from West and Central Africa forced into prostitution. And male migrants put into forced labor camps. Ghaddafi’s government never made an effort to prosecute traffickers or protect trafficking victims.

          • James says:


            You consistently force me to take a fresh look at my preconceptions – I will have to read up on Libya.

          • joe90 says:


            Human Rights Watch

            Is British foreign office. Also you are incorrect, slavery was one of the things Ghaddafi specifically stopped with his modernization program, he boasted about stopping it.

  5. MJ says:

    TTG – As an armchair “strateregist” I agree it would appear this Russian offensive is near it’s culmination point. Phillips P O’Brien has been using Russian tank & afv/ifv losses as an indicator. O’Brien’s book “How the war was won” on WW2 logistics is excellent.

    • Pat Lang says:

      It is past its culminating point in that the negatives in its effort outweigh the positives and continuing can lead to a sudden reversa.

    • Poul says:

      His 30th of April prognosis has not come to fruition, so use his views with caution.

      “Battle of the Donbas seems to be already have turned into a battle of attrition that holds out almost no possibility of a major Russian victory and more likely will peter out in the next week or so because of unsustainable losses.”

      • Jacques says:

        Where do you guys find such ridiculous nonsense? Pentagon PR or the very reliable MSM? In the first days of the SMO, Russian stand-off weapons took out around 90% of the Ukrainian military infrastructure. All material that is coming in from the west cannot nearly replace the daily material losses and those arrivals themselves get destroyed at latest as soon as they get deployed. What do you think these ‘successful’ counterattacks of the UAF are fought with, brass nuckles? They are logically, physically and militarily impossible.

        • Leith says:

          Jacques –

          You’ve been listening to Konashenkov have you? And reading Russian MSM controlled and censored lock and key by Roskomnadzor. You shouldn’t believe that BS.

          The 90% of infrastructure you mentioned was empty barracks, civilian buildings, and empty farm lots. Get a grip man.

  6. Fred says:

    “That seems to be enough to suggest that Ukrainian forces are still across the river….”

    Which means their backs are to the river and the bridges are choke points?

    “Though the forces involved have been described as “platoon-sized,” this is another one of those “How did Ukraine get there?” situations.”

    So a bunch of raids across the river, not a “on to Moscow” or even a Jeb Stuart ride ’round the army by that Ukrainian armor brigade we used to hear so much about here?

    “On the east, the pocket of Ukrainian control that used to extend up to the town of Oskil has largely collapsed and Russia is now pressing in from all sides, using a reported 22 BTGs with the goal of taking out Ukrainian forces and anything that remains of Ukrainian positions on the north side of the river.”

    So is that another pocket of surrounded folks getting the kessel treatment?

    “The pressure on Studenok and nearby villages is tremendous, and reports are that some Ukrainian positions in this area have been abandoned, with forces taking up positions on the south bank of the river. Many locations on the south side are bolstered not just by the natural defense of the river, but by hills that provide superior firing positions. This whole pocket between Izyum and Lyman could easily flip to Russian control in the next few days—assuming Russia can keep things together—but this would be more in the nature of a relocation of Ukrainian forces rather than a large loss.”

    So that’s what’s going on. The Russians are pushing up to the river and clearing out everything on the East, thus continuing to secure the 20% of the landmass of Ukraine that they have captured?

    Nice twit from Dimitri, the “Estonian in the UK”. Has that information actually been verified anywhere? Also, is he like that guy who reported on Syria for all those years?

    • Poul says:

      I wonder if the Russians are waiting for the 22 BTGs to finish the job and establish defensive positions. Then the excess BTGs can be moved to other fronts a la Popasna, Marinka, Adeevka or wherever the next main effort is going to be.

      In the mean time the Ukrainians can be soften up with artillery.

    • joe90 says:

      My understanding was that there were several attempted crossing by the Russian but they got hammered by Ukraine art + local units, the local Ukraine units tried 2+(1+) crossings themselves (not the same place) and also got hammered so for the tactical time both sides have said, “yeah lets try somewhere else”.

      A real Ukraine solder victory.

  7. Leith says:

    Putin now occupies all of Luhansk province except for the tiny sliver of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk. So he desperately wants to take and hold those cities. Doing that would enable him to tell the Russian people that he has met his goal of liberating Luhansk from the so-called Nazis and Satanists. Plus those cities are the gateway to northern Donetsk province, the other part of the Donbas that he needs so badly to ‘liberate’. He’s been trying to all of the Donbas for the last eight years. This may be his last chance. That is his fetish. Based on the internal politics of the RF. That’s my take on it anyway. Fire away.

    I suspect Ukraine may also have a fetish contrary or diametrical to Putin’s. But I hope not. Better for them to take advantage of Putin’s irrational fixation and inflict more harm on his Army as you mention.

    • Jacques says:

      “He’s been trying to all of the Donbas for the last eight years.”

      Where did you hear such nonsense? Ukraine dug themselves in during the 7 years after they got their asses handed to them by the DNR/LNR with very little Russian help. Then they agreed to fulfill the Minsk agreements but did nothing else than build up a new army with the help of the US/NATO and treat the Ukrainian (!) locals of the Donbass with daily bombardments, missile and rocket attacks that cost the lives of 15000 innocent civilians.

      • TTG says:

        Bending over backwards trying not to embarrass Putin, eh Jacques?

        That figure of 15,000 includes combatants and civilians on both sides since 2014. Most were killed in 2014 and 2015.

      • Leith says:

        Jacques –

        You need to escape from the bubble. After Debaltseve, the Ukrainians stopped trying to retake Putin’s DNR/LNR land grab. They dug in to hold the line established by the Minsk agreements. It was Putin all along pressing his puppets to take all of the Donbas, and blaming Ukraine for defending themselves from DNR/LNR attacks. Watch Putin’s lips, when they move it means he is lying.

  8. Fourth and Long says:

    A bit off topic. An instructive thread (to me) on why multiple rocket launcher systems are extremely difficult to eliminate as compared with artillery systems. Presumably applies to the HIMARS weapons too.

  9. Barbara Ann says:

    Is there a possibility that Severodonetsk could be a trap of another kind, one intended to lure the Ukrainians into keeping forces in the pocket until Russia has the ability to both close it and prevent an orderly retreat?

    Col. Markus Reisner – the Bundesheer guy who does regular updates on the conflict on YouTube – has likened the Donbas pocket to Verdun in WWI and the Falaise Pocket in WWII:

    By the way, there are two interesting comparisons from history to the Donbas pocket, both of which have a German connection. One is the heavy fighting around Verdun in the First World War. The German General Erich von Falkenhayn wanted [to turn] Verdun into a “meat grinder” for the French, he wanted to beat them there in a war of attrition. He would have almost succeeded if the Allies had not come to the French’s aid. It could be that the Russian tactic is to use up as many incoming Ukrainian arms and troops as possible in the Donbas pocket.

    And the other potential parallel?

    This is the Falaise cauldron, 1944 in France. This battle broke the neck of the German Wehrmacht in France. They waited too long, were surrounded, panic broke out, the Germans had to retreat and were only able to form a continuous front line again at the German-French border. If Ukraine hesitates too long in Donbass and there is no reliable chance of winning this battle, such a chain reaction may set in. (machine translation from German)

    • TTG says:

      The next objective for Russian forces in the Donbas is to take Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. Until they do that, they can’t truthfully say they liberated the Donbas. That’s the next defensive line for the Ukrainians. Losing Severodonetsk is certainly not the end for the Ukrainians. Why the Russians are even bothering with Severodonetsk makes little military sense, outside of the psychological fixation on the city. Of course, I don’t know why the Ukrainians are staying there, either. Perhaps it’s to buy more time for Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. By the time the Russians get to assaulting the defenses in those two cities, their offensive power will not be very impressive. The battle of Izyum pretty much destroyed the two motorized rifle brigades of the 35th Combined Arms Army. Both brigades were reduced to 100 effective each. At full strength, those two brigades should form six BTGs.

      • Poul says:

        I would say that railroad-wise it makes good sense. It will make supplying that sector of the front a lot easier giving all the artillery munition used.

        As for staying. If the Ukrainians give up land in the Donbass they are not getting it back. Ever.

        It’s a core goal for both sides.

    • joe90 says:

      “Is there a possibility that Severodonetsk could be a trap”

      Yes, but not now, Now it is surrender or be killed. It seems the Ukrainians had to Thursday to get out, now it´s to late. With hindsight Monday/Tuesday.

      The main road out was yesterday a free fire zone for Russian art, No AD and Russian drones can fly 24/7. Escape requires going into a killing zone at this time. It will probably be over by Monday morning.

      • Leith says:

        joe90 –

        Putin fanbois have been saying that since the 2nd of March when the Ukrainians repelled a Russian attack against Sievierodonetsk.

        Back then it was all the rage for Putin’s cult followers to talk about the huge cauldron where Russian troops were going to cut off Poltava, Dnipropetrovsk, and Zaporhizhzhya to trap 50 to 100K Ukrainian troops in the Donbas.

        Then they cut back their expectations settling on a smaller kettle on the Izyum-Donetsk axes.

        That didn’t work either, so then it was an even smaller bag from Yampil to Popasna.

        Now that that has Popasna has pooped out, they are hoping for a tiny cauldron at Severodonetsk.

        It may or may not happen. But if it does it will come at great cost – a Pyrrhic victory. ‘b’ should tell his friends in the Kremlin this adventure in Ukraine is going to turn into a major disaster for Russia unless they can get Putin away from the battle maps and get him to stop acting like he is a BTG commander. Let the Stavka do the strategy, but it may be too late.

        • Barbara Ann says:


          Col. Markus Reisner does not strike me as a Putin fanboi. The fact is Russian strategy changed completely around mid April and is now very focused on grinding down the Donbas pocket. Sure they did not have enough troops to properly capitalize on the Popasna breakout and maybe the whole thing will come to a grinding halt. But I have to wonder how much longer the troops in the pocket can/will hold out will little to no chance of relief and resupply becoming increasingly tenuous along the (1?) remaining road – which is supposedly under Russian fire control.

          • Leith says:

            Barbara Ann –

            I also doubt Col Reisner is enamored of Putin. But sitting in Vienna he is 1600 km away from Severodontsk. And there are French and Dutch journalists in Severodonetsk that tell a different story from his.

            As a military historian Reisner should have realized that the earlier withdrawal by the UA was a feigned retreat to suck in Putin’s troops and make them vulnerable.

            Lysyschansk is much more important militarily than Severodonetsk. From the heights across the river they can use their artillery to great advantage.
            But I surmise they wanted some political capital and morale boosters by retaking much of Severodonetsk after Putin’s news media claimed it was captured.

        • joe90 says:

          I don´t care about Putin fanbois. Facts are facts and Sievierodonetsk will be Russian controlled by the end of today.

          • Leith says:

            joe –

            You must be one of those ‘Combat Psychics’ that Girkin references. Do you get see through the fog of war with a crystal ball or by reading chicken livers?

            You may be right. But only if Vinnie the Puh sends in major reinforcements. The DNR/LNR conscripts and Khadyrov’s TikTok warriors are not going to be enough.

        • Poul says:

          The Severodonetsk counterattack may have been exaggerated by the Ukrainian PR people because President Zelensky visited the region.

          Things may not have changed all that much.

    • Jacques says:

      You’re very right. People who payed attention must have seen that there are continuous formations of cauldrons, of different sizes and sometimes even mini cauldrons within larger.

      We’ve already seen several situations were orderly retreats became almost impossible because the last available corridors were under RF fire control.

  10. cobo says:

    It seems that the artfulness of war is on the Ukranian side, with the groaning, industrial, constipation on the Russian. The thing about the artist, which I know much more about than the warrior, although bringing Mars into the creation would seem to make sense in either domain, is that the artist doesn’t move piece-by-piece in a rigid game – leaps occur that send all that was before into the spent past.

  11. Leith says:

    There are indications that many of the Russian troops in Severodonetsk were shanghaied from the Donbas. Or if actual Russians, many cooks, truckdrivers, & Air Force support personnel have been press ganged into the infantry. The Khadyrovtsy are there also, but they are not happy to be on the front line. Kidnapping, torturing, and murdering civilians is more their style. The Wagner mercs reportedly are sitting it out while waiting to get paid.

    Update on the situation:

  12. Klapper says:

    This counter offensive never happened or at least not successfully. I checked the Ukrainian MoD operational update as of 18:00 June 4 and no reporting of a successful counter offensive in Severodonetsk. Not on June 3 or June 2 either. I watched video from Severodonetsk on the AFU Foreign Legion infantry prepping for battle followed shortly by video showing members of the same group retreating. I geolocated the start of the retreat video as behind the existing contact line in Severodonetsk. It makes no sense that if this alleged successful counterattack happened the AFU MoD would not report it.

    • Mark Logan says:


      I also suspect “counteroffensive” is the wrong term for what appears to be happening in Sieverdonetsk. “Hugging the enemy” can result in the enemy moving back so they can use artillery, and you gotta keep hugging them so you move forward. The press may not understand the difference between a tactical advance and a counteroffensive.

  13. Henry Carmichael says:

    According to this article, linked on Boris “Colonel Cassad” Rozhin’s telegram, the Rada deputy
    Maryana Bezugla (the same one who recently failed to pass a law allowing officers to summarily execute subordinates) has arrived in Severodonetsk with a group of foreign legionaries, and is now acting as a sort of political commissar. The motivation for this might simply be fear of a general rout setting in?

    • TTG says:

      Henry Carmichael,

      According to the article and Bezugla’s own words, she’s acting more like a Congressional fact finding trip rather than a political commissar.

      “More on my work in a combat zone. Personal initiative, at the request of military, relatives, appeal:
      What is the moral and psychological state? Ready for action? Commanders? Aspiration , desire , ideas ?
      Does information come from top to bottom,
      from the bottom to the top?
      What about the supply line? Is modern armament arriving?
      How are the fighters on the front lines fed?
      What kind of health care?
      What works from the laws, and what in reality does not and should be changed?
      These are just a few of the questions why civilian democratic control during a war is needed. And it’s a parliamentary function. Комітет ВРУ з питань національної безпеки, оборони та розвідки No orders and orders are given by the People’s Deputy. Advice, help, communication, support, control. I work almost publicly because it’s not time.
      Being together with the military in a war zone is also sharing the risk. I was mobilized in my own time, so I can adapt to circumstances and certainly don’t need special conditions of stay. I have working groups, Committee meetings online.”

    • Leith says:

      Henry C –

      Maryana has been on the Donbas Front since April. She is a former frontline medic. Now an MP and a member of the Rada’s Committee on National Security, Defense and Intelligence. If they are allowing her near the front, there is no danger of the general rout that you speculate about.

      The Putin fabricated lie that she tried to “pass a law allowing officers to summarily execute subordinates” is pure horsepuckey.

      She has been going back and forth to the front for years. In this photo, both she and the brass look much too congenial for her to be a Komissar.

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