Before the war, Kreminna was a tranquil little town surrounded by forests with a pretty little station building. Today it is a place of military showdown: both Russia and Ukraine have been fighting for the Russian-occupied city in the Luhansk Oblast near the border with the Donetsk region since October. The city of 20,000 is of great strategic importance: whoever occupies Kreminna opens the door to the cities of Lysychansk and Sievjerodonetsk, 25 kilometers away – two large industrial centers in the Donbass, which are considered a connection to other regions in Ukraine. They are currently in Russian hands. But Ukraine is doing everything to get her back. A decisive stage in this: the conquest of Kreminna.

Since the liberation of the Kharkiv region, the Ukrainian armed forces have been fighting to recapture Luhansk and, according to the New York Times, are engaged in bitter artillery duels with the Russian occupiers for highways and villages around Kreminna.

According to the Ukrainian news agency “RBK Ukraina”, Ukraine is said to have withdrawn soldiers from the Kharkiv region for its offensive. As a well-known Russian military blogger reports, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Zelenskyy’s army had already taken the village of Chervonopopovka, just five kilometers from Kreminna. From there she would continue to advance towards Kreminna since December 23.

With Ukrainian troops approaching, Russian forces have significantly strengthened their front line in the area and built new, comprehensive defenses in recent days, the British Defense Ministry said in its intelligence update on Wednesday. According to Ukrainian military reports, increased transports of military equipment and ammunition were also observed in this context. The situation is “very tense,” Vitaly Kiselyov, a Russian-deployed official in the Luhansk region, told Russian state television on Monday.

After all, defending the occupied region has been a top priority for Putin since the loss of the city of Kherson. Keeping Kreminna and neighboring Svatove is the top priority. Troops are being reorganized and reinforced to achieve this goal, while other operations in the Donbass are being neglected, the “ISW” reports.

For Russia, nothing less than the stability of control over Luhansk is at stake. If Kreminna is finally recaptured despite all efforts, important stretches of motorway leading to Lysychansk and Sievjerodonetsk would also fall into Ukrainian hands with the city – a good prerequisite for the Ukrainian army when liberating the neighboring cities. The governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, also rejoiced on Telegram: “The Russians have understood that if they lose Kreminna, their entire line of defense will fall.”