Popasna is a city of regional importance in the Luhansk region with a population of just under 20,000. The first mentions of Popasna in reports of hostilities appear as early as 12 March 2022. One month later, the “liberation operation” of the city is still ongoing. On social media Popasna is compared to the Battle of Stalingrad and a special military operation of the RF armed forces in Ukraine is underway.
Popasna is located on a hill, so it is of strategic importance. The control of the city allows shooting, hitting and viewing a large area in all directions. Another important point is related to logistics, because after the occupation of this settlement, it becomes possible for Russian and Luhansk units to reach a large transport hub in the city of Bakhmut, which provides communications with Slavyansk and Kramatorsk. At the same time, the occupation of Bakhmut will not only interrupt the supply of the Ukrainian armed forces, but also open the way for a further offensive by Russia and the LPR.
The town of Popasna lies on the line of alignment of the Rubizhnoye – Severodonetsk – Lisichansk front and further south. All this together made a small town of twenty thousand people the central leadership of the Slavic-Kramatorsk group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. In Popasna itself, the 24th separate Lviv Mechanised Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been established, most of the military personnel coming from western and central Ukraine. They are armed with tanks, field artillery, mortars, heavy armoured vehicles, anti-tank weapons.
An additional motivation for the defending units is provided by the commanders of the Right Sector based on information from the social sphere of local residents, they have promised to shoot anyone who only thinks about retreating.
The Russians are struggling to take the city from the Ukrainian armed forces for their in-depth defence, which includes strongholds of platoons and companies, shelters, engineering barriers and minefields, which have been equipped – according to the social sphere afferent to the Donbass – for the past eight years under the strict guidance of instructors from NATO countries.
If they use civilian, not military social tools as Riafan did (see opening photo), one can see that Popasna is strengthened in terms of engineering. Around the city, especially on the south side, there are numerous fortified areas with firing positions for armoured vehicles, as well as an extensive system of communication routes between the strongholds. All this makes it possible to carry out secret manoeuvres of armoured vehicles, which are parked in the forest, making it difficult to detect them from the air. Civilian roads also pass between the strongholds, allowing reinforcements to be moved to the desired defence area, depending on the current situation. In the city itself there is also a road network: there is a railway and motorways. All of this allows for the transport of food, weapons and ammunition. On the northern side there is an extensive network of water barriers, which creates a natural protection for the Ukrainian Defence Forces group and makes it difficult to attack.
The settlement itself is a built-up area with low buildings. However, in the centre of the town, where the railway junction is located, there is a car repair shop and several residential high-rise buildings. From these nine-storey buildings, the eastern part of Popasna is clearly visible and crossed, from where Russian and Luhansk forces are advancing. No less complex in operational terms are the low buildings, which require inspections and razing, which also slows down the offensive. According to pro-Russian accounts the Ukrainians have also not provided escape routes for civilians who remain in the city acting as human shields.
The armed forces of the LPR are supported by Russian artillery, the forces of the National Guard of the Chechen Republic and, according to some reports, also by the Wagner PMC. This is said by a fighter from the NM DPR’s Vostok battalion, Vladlen Tatarsky: “The fighting there will be very heavy,” he told Pravda.ru about the situation in Popasna. “But, thank God, there are no reservists there, but well-trained men, who have real combat experience, even in urban areas, Wagner PMC fighters, who act very competently, once again are a nuisance for the local command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”
Control over Popasna is essential for the entire “special military operation” of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine. According to the social network, the Russian side has been able to make more progress, the line of contact is already in the city itself. And this could mean that the elimination of the powerful fortified area of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in this settlement is only a matter of time.